‘The Magmatron’s back!’ shouted Florrie as she ran through the market square. ‘He’s coming, he’s coming.’ She ran on towards the castle gates, spreading fear. The bewildered crowd looked around and muttered to each other.
They heard the noise before they saw his army approaching over the hillside, the rumbling sent shivers through the earth. The people ran. Florrie banged on the castle gates just as other people joined her.
‘Let us in, let us in!’ they demanded. A face appeared behind a hatch in the gate.
‘The Magmatron is back, you must let us in, you must help us, sound the horn!’ Florrie’s wide doe-like eye’s pleaded with the man on the gate.
’Now look ‘ere Missy, I can’t just go around openin’ gates all willy-nilly, there’s regulations.’
‘Forget the regulation’s the Magmatron’s coming! He’s coming! You’ve got to let us in!’ The throng of people behind Florrie grew, they were beginning to press her against the gate.
‘Forget about the regulations? HA! Are you having a laugh, has old Threeps put you up to this! Well, I’m not falling for it, d’you ‘ere me? And you can tell ‘im from me he’s got to get up earlier than that to catch me out!’
‘Who are you exactly?’
‘Warren’s the name, Chester Warren! Ha, that old fool think’s he can get one over…’
‘Yes, yes,’ Florrie cut in, ‘but what do your regulations tell you to do in an emergency, Mr Warren?’
‘Ah, right, well, I know this one, err “Section 6, Paragraph 63, err, no 64, I always get that wrong, in the event an emergency is declared the lives of the villagers take precedence over all current orders in order to prevent deaths, the gates must be opened.’
‘I declare an emergency!’ Florrie said in the best, most official sounding voice she could muster in the circumstances.
‘Oh, ooh, err, right, right you are Miss.’ The hatch closed, the press of people was getting too much for Florrie. The rumble of the Magmatron was getting louder. A grunt followed by a loud clank came from the other side of the gate. The gate rose and the throng of people poured under it. They spilled like milk into every crevice of the castle grounds.
’SOUND THE ALARM!’ cried a guard, moments later the bugle horn flooded the ears of every villager and out into the fields beyond. Everyone knew the haunting sound of the battle horn and they knew what it meant, the Magmatron knew it too.
Florrie pushed her way past crowds of people, she needed to get to the Queen, she needed to tell her what she saw.
The Magmatron’s army marched on, no mortal man would fight for the Magmatron, they tended to melt if they got too close, so he made his own army out of clay and poo and peat and soil. The faceless mud-men lurched heavily, carrying clubs, spears and swords. A line of giant Rockmen crumbled everything underfoot, and somethings that weren’t underfoot just shattered or broke from the shear seismic activity the Rockmen created. The Magmatron, with his fiery eyes leaked lava down his face. His magma core burnt fiercely under his rocky armour. The Magmatron didn’t walk, he just sort of moved the earth from under him. He heard the horn of Pernia echo across the valley, they knew he was coming and this pleased him. Soon the village would be destroyed and he could reopen the Kingdom of Baldare. His people would be free to surface once again.
‘I must see the Queen!’ Florrie demanded of the two guards at the main hall, they dropped their spears to form a barrier in front of her and she skidded to a stop.
‘Have you a made a formal request?’ asked the tallest of the guards.
‘This is my formal request!’
‘We do not accept verbal requests, you need to complete a form.’ The guard nodded in the direction of a table to the left.
‘But this is an emergency!’
‘Regulations is regulations, Miss.’ pride straightening the guards spine further. Florrie rushed to the table, grabbed a form and a pencil. Her hands were trembling as she scribbled the answers on the form as best she could. Back in front of the guards she proffered the piece of paper.
‘Now can I see the Queen?’
‘Yes, on Tuesday.’ replied the guard.
‘What! But I need to see her now!’
‘Ah, well, you’ve filled out the wrong form then. This is form 4 you see, what you need is form 7.’
‘Now look here, there isn’t time for this! The Magmatron is coming, he’s coming with an army and pretty soon they’ll be here, in front of you. Poking big sticks in to you!’
‘It’s regu…’ the guard began. Florrie growled and snatched the form back from the guard. She ran to table, grabbed a pen, crossed out the number 4 and wrote 7.
‘I’m not sure we can accept this.’ Said the guard to his colleague. ‘It’s been docturinised or sommat.’
’Sez form 7, though.’ said the other guard. They both shrugged, raised their spears and opened the door to the main hall. Florrie dashed through before they changed their minds. If she wasn’t in so much of a hurry she would have stopped to admire the ornate beauty of the main hall. As it was, all she could think about was the Magmatron.
The Queen was perched on her throne while a man on all fours provided a footstool for the royal feet. She was conferring with another man to her right. As she approached, Florrie did a sort of flying curtsey which almost ended up as a forward roll.
‘Your Majesty.’ She was not allowed to speak again, not until the Queen addressed her. It felt like a an age. Florrie kept her head bowed low and she wondered if the Queen was still there.
‘To whom am I addressing?’
‘I’m Florrie, Ma’am. Err, Floretta Banks, loyal subject of Pernia, Ma’am.’ They’d learnt about addressing royalty in school.
‘Well Miss Banks, what is it you wish to discuss?’ The man on the right of the Queen whispered in her ear, ‘What’s that, Form 7 you say.’ Florrie looked up at the man, both were staring back her. ‘Well, what is it child? Did you not hear the emergency horn?’
‘Yes, Ma’am. It was I, err I mean me who declared the emergency, because, well, because the Magmatron is coming and he’s got an army of Mudmen and a whole line of Rockmen, Ma’am.’
‘And we should believe the word of a child because…?’
‘I might be a child Ma’am but I ain’t never seen ‘im before, the Magmatron I mean. I weren’t even born the last time he attacked but I know the stories. He had eye’s that glowed brighter than the sun, an’ he was taller than two horses stacked up high, an’ he smelt worse than a bad batch of one of me dad’s ales.’
The man whispered in the Queens ear again.
‘There’s not many people who’ve been close enough to the Magmatron and lived to know of the smell.’ She considered her options for a moment. ‘Where did you see them, child?’
‘In the west valley, at the bottom of Langer’s Wood. There were too many to count.’
’Send outriders,’ said the Queen to the man on her right. ‘If you ware making this up, Miss Banks, you’ll be fed to the Ravenblat, at the festival of Borrin!’ Florrie gulped, even though she was telling the truth.
The Ravenblat lived in the caves below the castle, one villager a year was sacrificed to the Ravenblat as a form of payment to the Gods. Only the chosen one has ever seen the Ravenblat but they never came back to speak of it. There are legends of course, miners who’d chipped into it’s tunnels and glimpsed it’s slimy brown form. No one really knew what it looked like but they did know it was certain death if you ever saw it in person, and you wouldn’t see it for long.
The Queen’s outriders didn’t ride out far before they were turning back, quickly. Mudmen stomped their way along the bottom edge of Langer’s Wood only a mile from the edge of the village. Trees were knocked over like matchsticks, birds spilling into the air, chirping their angry dissent.
It had been 75 years since the Magmatron last attacked, weakened by the fight he was forced to retreat. He’d spent those years searching for the lost entrance to his kingdom high in the great mountain region of Hydor. He didn’t find it but he did find something almost as good. The Book of Tridus, the book of his ancestors. It told him where the last entrance to the kingdom lay, in the grounds of the castle of Pernia. This time, there would be no stopping him, this was the time for His kind.
Dismissed by the Queen, Florrie headed back down to the castle entrance where she stood on the steps and tried to see her parents. There was much activity in the ward, people from the village were streaming in and being separated, men and boys who could fight were being taken off to get weapons. Those that remained were being shunted down toward the dungeons. She saw her father, in the line for weapons, he looked pale.
Her embrace took him by surprise. ‘Father!’ she managed before her tears fell.
‘Florrie, thank goodness you’re safe. We’ve been so worried. Where have you been?’
‘It was me, Father, I saw them coming and I ran straight to the Queen.’
‘You saw them? You spoke to the Queen?’
‘Yes, and there’s loads of them, they’re coming for us.’
‘Look here, we have some of the best guards in the country and the bravest of men of the village. We will fight them Florrie, and we will win!’ The pair gazed at each other, ‘Go, go to the dungeons, go and find your mother, she wanted to keep looking for you but she had to take your grandparents and little brother. She’ll be so relieved to see you, and I’ll see you soon, when this is all over.’
‘Ok.’ She gave him one last big hug and ran in and out of the flow of people.
‘D’ya believe any of that?’ said a gruff voice standing next to her father.
‘No.’ said her father and there was nothing more to be said between them.
Florrie stood in line near the steps to the dungeon. A couple of soldiers were arguing.
‘We need them to hurry up.’
‘What? It’s too loud!’
‘We need them to hurry up!’
‘Yes, we could do with something to blow them up!’
‘No! Oh, for pity’s sakes.’
‘We’ll need to reinforce it!’
‘What, why do we need forceps?’
‘No, REINFORCE IT!’ the soldier had shouted during a lull in the noise.
Florrie took her time going down the narrow steps to the dungeons. It was getting darker with every step and she worried she would never find her mother in the dim light. The bottom of the steps led to a corridor, there were some locked doors with a window of iron bars near the top. The corridor opened out into a large chamber and people had gathered into small groups. Florrie wondered around, squinting in the candle light.
Out of nowhere something grabbed Florrie’s ankle and she squealed. The hand pulled at her leg, ‘Get off me! Mum! Mum!’ she called out. Looking down she saw the semblance of a face, one cloudy eye peered out of a face weathered by too many storms.
’It is you! You must be the one. You will save us, child.’ The old man hissed his words. Florrie stared at the man.
‘Get off her!’ Florrie’s mum said, pulling her daughter away and into her arms. ‘Florrie, oh, Florrie, thank the Gods you’re safe. Where’ve you been?’ Florrie explained to her mother as they made they way to a small alcove where the rest of her family were huddled together.
She was glad to see them but the old man’s words stayed with her. She was restless too, like her body knew it was supposed to be doing something but her mind wouldn’t tell her what it was.
Outside, the horn blew twice, echoing around the dungeon chamber, signifying the enemy had reached the village. It was then that the vibrations began. The simultaneous pounding of thousands of heavy feet on the earth sent shivers through the rock. Families huddled together tighter, babies cried, women prayed for their husbands and sons.
The mudmen approached, they trashed homes and carts, stepped on any animals stupid enough to still be near, they clubbed any villagers who hadn’t made it to the safety of the castle. Only one side of the castle was accessible from land, the other stood on the waters edge of lake Oculus – the glass lake, which itself sat at the bottom of the Diamond Mountain. Magmatron’s army filled the square, the Rockmen, who were twice the size of the Mudmen, took up positions at the front. Silence befell them all as they stood at the castle wall. The men on the ramparts and battlements froze with fear. The Magmatron had arrived.
To be continued…
Thanks to Karen S for her three inspirational words – magma, poo and forceps – did you spot them?
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