A quest of Heroes - S01 E60

2 months ago

Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 60

Thor rode hard in the darkness, racing through the final gate of King’s Court, barely slowing his horse as he jumped off it, breathing hard, and handing the reins to an attendant. He had been riding all day, the sun had fallen hours before, and he could see immediately from all the torchlight inside, hear from all the reverie behind the gates, that the King’s feast was in full swing. He kicked himself for being away for as long as he did, and only prayed he was not too late.

He ran to the nearest attendant.

“Is all in order inside?” he asked in a rush. He had to find out whether the King was okay—though of course he couldn’t directly ask if he had been poisoned.

The attendant looked at him, baffled.

“And why shouldn’t it be? All is in order, except that you are late. Members of the King’s Legion should always be on time. And your clothes are filthy. You reflect poorly on your peers. Wash your hands, and hurry inside.”

Thor rushed through the gate, sweating, put his hands in a small stone laver filled with water, splashed it on his face, and ran it through his longish hair. He had been in constant motion since early in the morning, he was covered in dust from the road, and it felt as if it had been ten days in one. He took a deep breath, tried to calm himself and seem orderly, and strode quickly down corridor after corridor, toward the vast doors of the feasting hall.

As he stepped inside, through the huge arched doors, it was just like his dream: before him were the two feasting tables, at least a hundred feet long, at the far end of which sat the King at the head of his own table, surrounded by men. The noise struck Thor like a living thing, the hall absolutely packed with people. There were not only the King’s men, members of the Silver and of the Legion seated at the feasting tables, but also hundreds of others, bands of traveling musicians, groups of dancers, of jesters, dozens of women from the brothels…. There were also all manners of servants, of guards, dogs running about. It was a madhouse.

Men drank from huge goblets of wine and beer, and many of them stood, singing drinking songs, arms about each other, clinking casks. There were heaps of food laid out on the tables, with boar and deer and all sorts of other game roasting on spits before the fireplace. Half the room gorged themselves, while the other half mingled about the room. Looking at the chaos in the room, seeing how drunk the men were, Thor realized that if he’d arrived earlier, when it began, it would have been more orderly. Now, at this late hour, it seemed to have evolved into more of a drunken bash.

Thor’s first reaction, aside from being overwhelmed, was deep relief to see that the King was alive. He breathed a sigh of relief. He was okay. He wondered again if that omen meant nothing, if his dream meant nothing, if he was just overreacting to fancies, making something bigger in his head than it should be. But still, he just could not shake the feeling. He still felt a pressing urgency to reach the King, to warn him.

Protect our King.

Thor pushed his way into the thick crowd, trying to make it the long way toward the King. It was slow going. The men were drunk and rowdy, packed shoulder to shoulder, and MacGil sat hundreds of feet away.

Thor managed to get about halfway through the crowd when he stopped, suddenly spotting Gwendolyn. She sat at one of the small tables, off to the side of the hall, surrounded by her handmaids. She looked glum, which seemed unlike her. Her food and drink were untouched, and she sat off to the side, separated from the other members of the royal family. Thor wondered what could be wrong.

Thor broke from the crowd and hurried over to her.

She looked up and saw him coming, but instead of smiling, as she always did, her face darkened. For the first time, Thor saw anger in her eyes.

Gwen slid her chair, got up, turned her back, and began to march away.

Thor felt as if a knife had been plunged into his heart. He could not understand her reaction. Had he done something wrong?

He raced around the table, hurrying over to her, and grabbed her wrist gently.

She surprised him by throwing it off roughly, turning and scowling at him.

“Don’t you touch me!” she screamed.

Thor took a step back, shocked at her reaction. Was this the same Gwendolyn he knew?

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I meant you no harm. And no disrespect. I just wanted to talk to you.”

“I have no words left for you,” she seethed, her eyes aglow with fury.

Thor could hardly breathe; he had no idea what he had done wrong.

“My lady, please tell me, what have I done to offend you? Whatever it is, I apologize.”

“What you have done is beyond remedy. No apology will suffice. It is who you are.”

She started to walk away again, and a part of Thor thought he should let her be; but another part of him couldn’t stand to just walk away, not after what they’d had. He had to know—he had to know the reason why she hated him so much.

Thor ran in front of her, blocking her way. He could not let her go. Not like this.

“Gwendolyn, please. Just please give me one chance to at least know what it is that I have done. Please, just give me this.”

She stared back, seething, hands on her hips.

“I think you know. I think you know very well.”

“I do not,” Thor stated earnestly.

She stared, as if summing him up, and finally, seemed to believe him.

“The night before you saw me, I am told that you visited the brothels. That you had your way with many women. And you delighted in them all night long. Then, as the sun broke, you came to me. Does that remind you? I’m disgusted by your behavior. Disgusted that I ever met you, that you ever touched me. I hope I shall never see your face again. You’ve made a fool of me—and no one makes a fool of me!”

“My lady!” Thor yelled out, trying to stop her, wanting to explain. “It isn’t true!”

But a band of musicians got between them, and she darted off, slipping through the crowd so fast that he could not find her. Within moments, he completely lost trace of her.

Thor was burning inside. He could not believe that someone had gotten to her, had told her these lies about him, had turned her against him. He wondered who was behind it. It hardly mattered; his chances with her were now ruined. He was dying inside.

Thor turned and began to stagger through the room, remembering the King, feeling hollowed out, as if he had nothing left to live for.

Before he’d gone a few feet, Alton suddenly appeared, blocked his way, and sneered down with a satisfied smile. He wore silk leggings, a velvet blazer, and a feathered hat. He looked down at Thor, with his long nose and chin, and with the utmost arrogance and self-pride.

“Well, well,” he said. “If it’s not the commoner. Have you found your bride-to-be here yet? Of course you have not. I think rumors have spread already far and wide of your exploits in the brothel.” He smiled and leaned in close, revealing small, yellow teeth. “In fact, I’m sure they have.

“You know what they say: if there’s a glimmer of truth, it helps spark a rumor. I found that glimmer. And now your reputation is ruined, boy.”

Thor, seething with rage, could take it no longer. He charged and punched Alton in the gut, making him keel over.

Moments later, bodies were on him, fellow Legion members, soldiers, getting in their way, pulling them apart.

“You have overstepped your bounds, boy!” Alton yelled out, pointing at him over the bodies. “No one touches a royal! You will hang in the stocks for the rest of your life! I will have you arrested! Be sure of it! At first light I will have them come for you!” Alton yelled, and turned and stormed away.

Thor couldn’t care less about Alton, or his guards. He thought only of the King. He brushed the Legion members off and turned back for MacGil. He shoved people out of the way as he hurried for the King’s table. His mind was swimming with emotions, and he could hardly believe this turn of events. Here he was, just as his reputation was rising, only to have it ruined by some malignant snake, to have his love cheated away from him. And now, tomorrow, the threat of being imprisoned. And with the Queen aligned against him, he feared that just maybe he would be.

But Thor didn’t care about any of that now. All he cared about was protecting the King.

He pushed harder as he weaved his way through the crowd, bumping into a jester, walking right through his act, and finally, after pushing through three more attendants, making it to the King’s table.

MacGil sat in the center of the table, a huge skin of wine in one hand, his cheeks red, laughing at the entertainment. He was surrounded by all his top generals, and Thor stood before them, pushing his way right up to the bench, until finally, the King noticed him.

“My liege,” Thor yelled out, hearing the desperation in his own voice. “I must speak with you! Please!”

A guard came to pull Thor away, but the King raised a palm.

“Thorgrin!” MacGil bellowed in his deep, kingly voice, drunk with wine. “My boy. Why have you approached our table? The Legion’s table is there.”

Thor bowed low.

“My King, I am sorry. But I must speak with you.”

A musician clanged a cymbal in Thor’s ear, and finally, MacGil gestured for him to stop.

The music quieted, and all the generals turned and looked at Thor. Thor could feel all the attention on him.

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A Quest Of Heroes - S01 E59

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A Quest Of Heroes - S01 E61

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