In Pan Post 89 King Arthur has established a colony on the planet Caledonia, a planet that spends most of its cycle under its many moons and very rarely the star system's sun. The ominous moon, named Lloth, emits a cold radiance upon the world from its netherlight and some of the local drow people worship it as a god. The human settlement comes under attack by drow who take the opportunity to kidnap Prince Mordred despite the fierce human resistance and the horrifying display of necromancy by Isolde of the White Hands. Mordred is taken upon a gigantic, flying slab of stone to the nearby mountain Llurth Caridwen where he meets with the crazy leader of the moon-worshipping drow, Prelate Seerias.
Characters: King Arthur | Queen Guinevere | Prince Mordred | Morganna le Fay | Merlin the Younger | Sir Kay | Sir Lancelot | Sir Bedivere | Sir Galahad | Sir Tristram | Sir Caelia | Sir Red Rose Knight | Sir Black Knight | Sir Faerie Knight | Andy | Admiral Ltexi | Gamma Pans | Monde | King Mark | Queen Iseult | Sir Gawain | Sir Greene Knight | Isolde of the White Hands | Prelate Seerias
Xen'drik lazily glides through the sky in its rapid orbit around the planet Caledonia. It would be up there for just three hours before it would be gone from view. But while it is there it casts a brilliant white light over the world that helps the humans to better see what's going on around them.
Prince Mordred stands atop of the wooden palisade and watches the wretched jungle for any signs of movement. He spies one of the fat badger-like creatures, which is about the size of a bear, scamper through the underbrush as it seeks out its next meal. Fortunately it only eats the giant insects of the jungle and would rather sit on a human than eat one. Which literally happened to Sir Robin before the giant badger was shooed off and the idiot knight had to be carted off to the hospital again. So far he'd managed to contract several diseases, get poisoned by a variety of plants he'd tried to eat, fell off the palisade (twice) and got sat on by a giant badger. Bets are on for what will happen to him next. Mordred has bets on Robin being mauled by a rabbit, while King Arthur has bets on Robin choking on a soggy orange - because only Sir Robin could die that way.
Further down the palisade he spots Sir Galahad standing beside one of the torches, which casts a warm, yellow glow around the wooden wall. Pretty stupid place to stand though. If one of the enemy is out there, they'd see him in an instant and he'll wind up with an arrow in the face.
Prince Mordred wonders if he could get a bet for Galahad being picked off first. He'll be rich in minutes.
Xen'drik passes below the jungle canopy and the world is plunged, once again, into its eternal dimly illuminated darkness. The world has a constant light but it's very dim and difficult for most of the humans to see by. His eyes adjust to the lowered light and he can make out the vague shapes of the trees, their curved leaves and the sense that the leaves might be coloured blue. Though that might be his memory filling in the information for him.
Up above were ten more moons. Unlike Xen'drik, however, they're much further out, smaller and reflect less light onto the planet. The sun itself only shines on them every few months, and then only for an instant as it peeks through the moons that block its line of sight as the world slowly turns. They'd seen it just once thus far but Merlin the Younger assures them it will return in a few weeks from now.
The second largest moon is named Seldarine and hangs in the air as an eerie white ghost of a moon. Somehow it had been broken up centuries ago and now it appears as though something had tried to take a bite out of it. The remains half the moon still float in orbit with it, though they've slowly formed something of a trail after it. Only half of the moon remains in tact, while the rest is broken into pieces of various sizes. Merlin estimates that something very large collided with it. Lucky the same object miraculously missed the planet itself...
Of the moons, however, the most curious one to Mordred is dubbed Lolth. It's the smallest of them all, but coloured entirely black with rivets of red, which he's been told are rivers of red liquid. The tiny moon is forever in the sky as it rotates in synch with the planet's rotation. Some of the local religions worship this moon as a god of some sort and Mordred can almost appreciate why. The Red Rose Knight calculated that this moon is emitting its own light rather than reflecting it from the sun. This light has been described by the locals as 'Netherlight'. When asked what the opposite of light is, Mordred had once said darkness. He was corrected with; "Darkness is not the opposite of light, but the absence of light. The opposite of light is netherlight.". This netherlight is cold. Instead of emitting heat like the sun, it emits a chill over the world. The humans have occupied one of the warmer areas of the planet - an area where it only snows once a week.
The netherlight keeps the world dimly lit, which is something better than nothing. It does, however, make Mordred question, once again, why they're bothering. Wasn't Earth better than this?
He has no idea what time it is. It's actually impossible to keep time in the way they had on Earth. Earth time is based on rotations of the planet. If they based their time on rotations of the planet it'd probably still be 1am.... for the next month in Earth time. Instead they were keeping track of time by the moons alignments. Since Seldarine is still in view and Xen'drik has just disappeared, he estimates that it's currently "Xen-drik past Seldarine"... whatever that means.
Once Seldarine is gone and the moon Erelhei-Cinlu, an unimaginative moon that apparently isn't willing to put in the effort to be as interesting as its brothers, rises past Lolth, it would be... "Erelhei-Cinlu past Seldarine and to Lolth.". Or something like that. Either way that meant it would be time to go and wake up Sir Kay while he went for something to eat. He isn't sure if it's supposed to be breakfast, lunch or dinner... perhaps it's "Meal to Erelhei-Cinlu" or "Meal past Seldarine".
Mordred walks slowly past the torch on his end of the palisade. Despite knowing it to be dangerous, he can't help but long to bask in its warmth and pleasant light. He passes by with a sigh.
Then he hears something.
Then a loud "THUNK" as something hits the palisade beside the torch.
A bright red, metal arrow.
Prince Mordred: "ATTACK! WE'RE UNDER ATTACK!"
He bellows and turns back to the torch. It's positioned within the corner tower and above it is the alarm bell. It's the most dangerous spot of all - lit up and an obviously place for anyone to be. If he doesn't ring it though, others might not hear his call. His selfish nature is overridden by that same selfish nature - if he doesn't ring the bell he'd be overrun and killed anyway.
He grabs the rope and whacks the metal orb inside the bell against the brass. The alarm is sounded. He then ducks quickly and, as he'd expected, another arrow whizzes through the air where he had just been. He gasps with relief.
He sees Galahad down the other end of the palisade, along on the floor. He watches. The knight isn't moving.
Prince Mordred: "Bloody moron!"
He scuttles across the floor, keeping his head below the tall, sharpened logs, until he reaches Sir Galahad. Two arrows, one in the shoulder and the other in the gut. Fortunately shock of the strikes has rendered him unconscious, else he'd be in tremendous pain right about now. He yanks the arrow from his shoulder out and tosses it aside. The arrow in his gut, however, he'd have to leave in lest he bleed out rapidly without anyway to stem the tide.
There's plenty of movement suddenly as knights group up outside of their huts and don armour and equip swords. Sir Tristram exits his hut with his wife, Isolde of the White Hands. Mordred thinks she's just as creepy as the creatures shooting at him. Tristram runs for the wall and unslings his beam-bow while Isolde makes for the walls near to Mordred. Several soldiers flow behind her, eager to "protect the damsel", not knowing she'd probably end up protecting them. She walks slowly, showing no haste, but wears a mask of grim determination.
She ascends the steps, showing no interest in keeping her head down. And arrow hurtles by her and strikes one of the soldiers straight in the end. The blood that spurts from the gash matches the red of his tunic. The other soldiers get out their standard bows and latch arrowed from their quivers to the bows. They return fire. The arrows aren't nearly as effective as the strange red arrows of their enemy, but they'd be just as deadly should they manage to strike a head too.
The dead soldier then shudders and drags himself to his feet. His spine is completely rigid while his limbs are limp, his head lolls back. His legs march mechanically as he ascends the stairs and reaches the palisade wall. Some of the soldiers reel back in horror - they'd never worked with Isolde of the White Hands before. She stands still, unwavering and unmoving, close to Mordred. The soldier himself leaps, unexpectedly, over the wall. One soldier calls to him... thinking he's still alive.
Arrows thwack into the walking corpse as it marches across the short clearing towards the treeline. Arrow after arrow, each one becoming more and more accurate as it gets nearer and nearer to the hidden enemy. By the time it reaches them, he looks like a pin cushion. He draws his sword, quite clumsily, and waggles it about in the air - looking like a puppet on strings. He bounces, more than marches, now and slashes at enemies that Mordred can't see at this distance.
With the horrifying, immortal man lunging at them, the creatures break cover and retreat towards other parts of the jungle brush. They're shorter than humans, between four and five feet at best, and their skin is as obsidian as space. They even have small white spots around the temple, as though they are trying to imitate the eternal night sky of Caledonia. Despite their jet black skin, they do have stark white hair, though some have grey. Most of them are wearing hoods to hide their hair in the darkness, but in retreating from the oversized hedgehog man their hoods flap free and expose their bright heads. This gives the human archers something to shoot at and they loose their bows. The enemy, however, are nimble and can see perfectly well in the darkness of this world. In fact, Mordred had observed that they never attacked during the sunlight hours once a month and he suspects their vision is actually impaired by bright light.
One of them suddenly explodes in a cloud of black smoke and liquid, which splatters out like ink from a spilt inkwell. The arrows pass through the spot where she had just been and she reappears, unharmed. She grabs a dagger from her leg strap and tosses it at the walking corpse, planting the blade with deadly precision into the man's heart. He then shuffles after her and she backs away before retreating with her fellows.
As they reach the jungle again, several of these black-skinned drow, as they call themselves, step forward. These drow are more heavily armoured than the archers and they carry long, black staves tipped with various coloured stones. One of them, with a red-tipped staff, points the weapon at the zombie and a sudden blast of netherflame erupts over the body. The netherflame, unlike normal fire, burns colder than ice yet it burns the corpse in an instant, more viciously than the hottest fires of Hell. The drow wizard turns her staff on the palisade and the soldiers have the good sense to jump out of the way when the wooden wall bursts into roaring flames of blue and white. Then a sudden flash of brilliant white netherlight blasts above them and Mordred is temporarily blinded. He hears even Isolde cry out in surprise. Mordred, trying to drag Galahad away from the netherflame, falls over something and lands head first into the wooden walkway.
He heard the dull thunk of his head against wood after he felt it. Cursing to himself he winces against the agony of the hit and the blindness in his eyes. Though it had only been a flash of netherlight, the light had been so utterly cold that his eyes ache with the agony of being exposed to the sudden freezing temperature. They're surely going to be hurting for days.
His vision is slowly beginning to return and, as they do, he suddenly jumps to his feet. A drow scout has climbed through a patch in the netherflames to enter the camp. This assault seems more determined than ever before. A laser arrow smacks her in the chest and she falls down dead.
Only to then rise a moment later as the undead slave of Isolde. She is now hidden against the wall, apparently only now she takes the threat seriously enough to take cover. She's a tall woman with incredibly pale skin, such so that Mordred might have taken her for one of her own corpses. Her hair is dark red, as red as the blood moon that rises every couple of days on this world. Her irises, too, are red, which Mordred considers a very bad omen indeed. She wears, however, a white dress right now, but has a leather jacket over it to keep her warmer. In the cold of Caledonia, everyone has to dress warmer.
The drow zombie turns and jumps back down into the field where she would undoubtedly cause havoc amongst her people. Three more drow appear, however. Two women and a man. The male drow are usually shorter than the females and Mordred has seen less of them. When Sir Tristram fires another laser arrow, Mordred is almost sorry that it's the male he kills first, seeing how rare they are. But his corpse rises and grabs hold of one of the women, who doesn't understand that he's being possessed and attempts to reason with him in their alien language. The other drow female, however, fires an arrow of her own towards Sir Tristram, all the way on the other side of the camp. She almost hits. He fires back and, likewise, almost hits. She shouts at her ally and promptly kicks the dead male off of her friend. After a brief squabble, the non-archer charges around the walkway, straight towards Isolde. Mordred is on his feet and draws Clarent. The drow sees him approach and whips a hand-held crossbow from her belt and aims it at Isolde. Isolde throws her hands up, playing the innocent fair lady.
Drow: "No move, or she dead."
Mordred glances at Isolde. It would probably be a good thing if she died, but he likes Sir Tristram and he likes her. He pauses and that gives the drow enough time to grow a little more confident.
Drow: "You prince-king. Come here."
Prince Mordred: "You know me?"
Drow: "Come. Now. Or this is dead."
He steps forward she she shouts at him;
Drow: "Drop! Weapon! Stupid man!"
He does so. Clarent hits the wood with a resounding, almost forlorn, clang of a fallen blade. He glances back to see Sir Kay and Sir Black Knight notice what he was doing and they turn to rush towards his aid. The Black Knight jumps at the wall and clambers up awkwardly, while Sir Kay takes the long way round to the stairs.
The drow shouts more urgently at Mordred but he takes his time to shuffle towards her. The drow suddenly fires her crossbow. The bolt hits Isolde in the shoulder and panic washes over Mordred. He shouts his own compliance and hurries over to the two drow women. Isolde cries in agony but grits her teeth and glares at the drow who shot her.
Isolde: "You shall be a victim to my vengeful spirit, blasted creature!"
The drow looks disturbed by Isolde's malicious determination but urges Mordred over the break in the wall. She shoves him and he topples down. He hears The Black Knight call his name angrily but the soft earth muffles the sounds from within the walls. He gets to his feet, only to have the drow kick him down again.
Mordred: "Hey! I can't walk if you kick me down!"
Drow: "Up. Move! Quick!"
He goes ahead of her, though not too fast. He feigns an injured leg from the drop and hobbles along. The second drow jumps down, after firing one last arrow at Sir Tristram. The Black Knight reaches the gap in the wall and glowers down at the drow, daring her to stay and fight. The drow, however, isn't dumb and she fires an arrow up at the knight. The arrow pangs against her thick, metal armour and actually embeds itself into the shoulder pauldron. It doesn't, however, pierce enough to hit flesh. She jumps down after the drow, with her two beam swords ignited. One of them is curved, perfect for quick slashes against unarmoured foes. The other is traditionally straight, better suited for taking out armour. She swipes at the drow, but the white-haired alien ducks the blows. She makes it look easy, but since she cannot parry the attacks, the drow is on the backfoot. One mistake and she'd be dead to the fearsome Black Knight.
Mordred, meanwhile, is still being ushered towards the jungle. Just as he gets there he hears a cry and manages to get a glimpse of the archer drow on her knees. The second blow from The Black Knight is not a blow one can cry out to...
The drow with Mordred grows in desperate anger, seeing her friend decapitated so mercilessly. Oddly enough Mordred appreciates that she hadn't killed Isolde when she had the chance. Perhaps it was to maintain Mordred's compliance or perhaps it was mercy. Either way, The Black Knight had not spared a life the way that the drow had done.
Mordred: "Why are you taking me?"
Drow: "Quiet. You will know when you will know."
He begins to wonder if he had been the target all along for this little raid. The attack started when he was in the firelight. Had they waited to see him there and then came for him specifically. She had known he is the prince of Arthur, after all. Soon they're joined by more drow and Mordred realises that there had been a lot of them in reserve. They had only sent the minimum necessary for distraction and extraction. It wasn't meant to be an all out battle.
This is what he had come to expect of them. These drow don't fight like warriors. They fight like thieves. They use darkness to mask their movements, they assassinate unaware foes and they retreat at the slightest provocation. Living to fight another day is no negative attribute amongst them. Victory is all. Honour is nothing. Yet they do have a code of mercy that he had witnessed tonight.
There are different classes of drow here. The wizards are wearing thick armour, quite the opposite of wizards of Britannia. But they are in the minority, while the agile scouts seem plentiful. Others appear to be soldiers and wear armour that reminds him of the tough, metal armour of The Black Knight herself. They wield lances and spears of various assortments and were likely standing in the jungle as a line to stop any humans from rushing in there. They don't, however, appear to be as impressive as the human knights thanks to their short stature and lithe forms. He spies a few more men amongst these armoured soldiers, but the women are still in the majority.
Prince Mordred: "Why did you take me?"
He asks again even though he knows he'll get no answer. This time they ignore him. The original captor is lost amongst the sea of alien faces and he's ushered along by complete strangers until they reach a river. The water on this planet is always lukewarm, as though its the only thing that saves the planet from being a barren ice waste. He's sure that the water bubbles up hot from beneath the surface of the planet, possibly through vents or ocean volcanoes, and is then swept across the world is warm rivers. Only isolated lakes tended to be so very cold that they were normally frozen over. A soldier binds Mordred's hands behind his back while they prepare to cross the river.
The wizards go first and he watches with some amazement as they walk on the water, careful not to be pushed by the currents by idling. They quickly move over the water and then the scouts go next. They jump and run quickly through the river as though it isn't any kind of impediment.
Then they hear a shout from the trees. Some scouts are informing them of approaching humans. The soldiers shove Mordred into the river, where he topples over and his head plunges below the water. He writhes, unable to use his hands to support himself as they're tied behind him. The warm water is strangely soothing despite his predicament.
He's hoisted from the water by two soldiers. They drag him along by his arms. The scouts stand on the far bank with their bows poised.
Sir Kay: "There he is!"
Mordred tries to look back to see Sir Kay but the soldiers only drag him all the harder. The drow scouts, without needing any kind of order, let fly their arrows.
Sir Gawain: "Take over!"
Mordred hears someone cry out in pain, evidently hit by an arrow, but he can't tell who it is. He reaches the bank and the drow fire another volley. Mordred feels guilty that someone was hurt, or even dead, trying to save him. He wants them to stop trying to save him and save their own lives, sacrifice him. He's not worth it.
At least that's what some tiny speck of his brain is telling him, evidently the speck of his brain that has been infected by Sir Lancelot and Galahad. The rest of him urges the knights to push on and hurry the Hell up over that bloody river. He doesn't want to be spending the night in water torture device these sneaky devils have in store for him.
Suddenly a magical battle erupts behind him and he watches the scouts quickly run away from the magical blasts, likely being expelled by Sir Caelia or The Faerie Knight. Several drow wizards, instead, turn about and chant quickly to cast a magical wall between them and the captors. He's dragged through the jungle and he wonders what happened in the wizard battle. Did the drow wizards just sacrifice themselves? That didn't seem the style of these drow. Perhaps they were overconfident in their magical prowess, or underestimated the magical skill of the humans. Or maybe they held up the barrier just long enough to then make a retreat.
He then finds stone underfoot. The jungle has given way to a huge slab of stone in the ground. It might have not been noticed by Mordred had it not been for the strange carvings in the stone surface. Symbols, writing, diagrams - it all looks like a lot of magical spells to him. The slab itself is long enough to have been the foundations of a great hall and he wonders if this was once a drow village. Maybe that's why the drow hate the humans so much - they're invading their territory.
The soldiers file on and the scouts, again, have arrows notched in case the humans come blundering up behind them. The remaining wizards step onto the slab and netherlight suddenly seeps from their feet and into the stone slab beneath them. The symbols and writing all illuminates brightly with netherlight and the stone rattles and rumbles. Mordred falls to his knees but the drow, with thier peculiar agility, stand aloft with ease. Even the heavy amoured drow are able to stand perfectly still.
Mordred suddenly realises that the massive stone slab is actually leaving the ground. Up and up and up. The gigantic rectangular block of rock is actually flying. He hears exclamations in English from below, but by now they're well away and the scouts have lowered their bows and returned arrows to their quivers. The air grows colder and thinner as the flying slab rises ever higher. Then it slows and turns. Mordred wobbles, feeling like he's going to topple off. He throws himself down against the rock and tries to hold onto it, awkwardly bringing his tied wrists to his side. The slab then slowly soars through the sky towards a distant mountain.
From up here he sees Seldarine ever more clearly, its fractured surface like a cracked and broken stone. He hopes that's not an omen for what's to come as he looks back down at the slab he's flying on. He tries to look up at the drow, without straying too far from lying down. Some of the drow have seated themselves, settling in for a long flight. They're chittering in their own language and he senses many glances in his direction.
Prince Mordred: "Could someone now tell me why I was captured?"
Drow: "You will know when you will know."
He groans with irritation but he's too afraid of being flung off the flying brick to argue. Of all the things to see today, he hadn't expected this.
He realises he had slept on the rock as his eyes snap open. It's unusual waking up on Caledonia since it's always as dark as when you fall asleep. He had, however, been drolling. He tries to gather some semblence of dignity, as though nobody had seen him snoozing away with spit dripping from his lips. Unfortunately a face full of rock leaves a very artistic pattern across the skin. Albeit a painful one.
The slab has landed somewhere on the mountainside, embedding itself into the soft ground and becoming nothing more than a curious rock formation. At the far end of the slab is a silk tent of dark red that reminds Mordred of Isolde's hair. The gazebo has its canopy raised high and the front flaps are wide open. Inside is a table and an occupied chair. The woman there is a drow too, but she is not soldier. She's wearing a long, red dress that actually matches the tent, complete with white webbing-like patterns across the lower half of the skirt. It has a black hemline and the bustier amplifies the woman's chest with what looks like bone ribbing. The dress comes up at the back to form a kind of setting sun effect behind her head and on her head is a tiara that actually has horns on either side, as though she knows the mental anguish that might induce into a Christian culture's psyche.
She has incredibly long white hair that appears well groomed and as soft as silk. It appears to reach down to her waist at least. The small white specks at her temples are more numerous than most of the drow he'd seen and he imagined these specks would likely be considered beauty marks by their culture. The drow all share the same coloured iris - lilac. It's an unusual colour to find in the midst of such a dark complexion and it can be so faint that some drow look like they only have their tiny black pupils.
The woman is seated with one leg crossed over the other at the knee, showing her leg from the calf. Her skin is incredibly black and, to Mordred's eye, looks very soft and her fingers are completely uncalloused. Something in him admires the woman. But mostly he recognises the danger of someone who knows they're in complete control of the situation and that he is at their complete disposal.
When she notices that he's awake she looks at him with a slightly amused expression on her lips. He manages to stand up and finds that his hands are unbound. There's only two soldiers present aside from this woman. Her arrogance leaves him puzzled. Is she stupid or is there more than meets the eye. He slowly approaches her.
Prince Mordred: "Are you go--"
One of the soldiers stamps towards him. He watches her, thinking she's going to check him for weapons or drag him closer to the woman in red. When the guard throws a punch to his stomach, knocking the wind out of him, he's taken by complete surprise. He falls to his knees and gasps for breath. How the woman could punch so hard through armour he couldn't fathom right now. He actually sees stars for a moment as he gasps for breath.
Drow Guard: "You speak only when speak to."
The woman appears ever more amused by her victim. Mordred snarls defiantly.
Prince Mordred: "How about you go fu--"
The guard punches his face so hard that he actually falls to one side. Evidently these two women are empowered beyond their physical limitations. Mordred spits a glob of blood out. He'd been hurt more now than he had for the whole capture. Perhaps he's overestimated his worth. This woman only seemed to be entertained by him.
Prince Mordred: "Ouch... you know... you hit like a girl..."
He snickers at himself but is rewarded by a kick to the stomach. He groans with agony. He lies there quietly by himself, waiting for the pain to subside. He wonders what witty remark he could come up with next. He doesn't enjoy the beatings but he's quite thrilled at the opportunity to play the defiant prisoner. At least he can keep it up until the real torture starts. Then he'll squeal like a pig and tell them whatever they want to know at the first sign of a rack.
Woman in Red: "Welcome, Prince-king. These land is called Llurth Caridwen. In your tongue this is meaning Mountain Island."
She gestures and the guards hoist him up. They drag his limp body towards the edge of the cliff that they're on. She sweeps her hand down and he can see that the mountain is, indeed, surrounded by sea on all sides. Almost a perfect circle around the mountain base where he can see thick jungle foliage and some drow-made towers.
Woman in Red: "This land is mine. I am named Prelate Seerias. I am prelate of Llurth Caridwen, and blessed by Lolth."
Prince Mordred: "So you're a crazy moon-worshipper?"
He manages to grin.
Prelate Seerias: "Moon-worshipper? Perhaps. Crazy?"
She crouches down and grabs his face. She forces her fingers into the wound just inflicted by guard. He winces and moans at the pain she inflicts.
Prelate Seerias: "Absolutely."
"A lot of ancient drow culture is introduced in this post and much of it was adapted and greatly altered from the original Dungeons & Dragons[Ext 1] material. Netherlight is also first used here, which is lifted from Terry Pratchett's[Ext 2] Discworld[Ext 3]. While one the aims of the post was to build up the drow race, I also wanted to give the opportunity to expand on Prince Mordred, who is one of the main characters of Space Camelot. When I made Prelate Seerias here I wanted her to have a classic villain role." ~ Britt the Writer.