12. THE ANGEL AND THE COWARD

12. THE ANGEL AND THE COWARD

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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Kevvy is lost in the wild forest, and darkness has fallen when he is visited by an angel.

"

Kevvy was lost on a night that he hated. There could be no doubt about it: having searched until darkness fell for the forked tree that had always guided him safely in past years when he had been out hunting for meat for the family’s table, or for anything that he recognised, and having passed the same odd-looking stone at least half a dozen times before somehow losing even that and not passing it again, he knew that he was completely and utterly lost. And in the darkness of the forest when he couldn’t see his hand if he held it up before his face, he knew that he could make no further progress until dawn.

Anyway, he was tired.

He wasn’t used to so much exercise, so much forcing his way through undergrowth and past clusters of fragile saplings that seemed to do nothing more than slap him in the face, and now his muscles ached. And it wasn’t just his muscles. He ached where he was pretty sure there were no muscles. He ached where he’d never ached before, and he was fed up.

All he wanted to do was find that southern king and ingratiate himself before him, fawn at his feet and promise him inside information that would hasten his victory. All he wanted to do, and he was certain of this even though he didn’t like the thought to cross his mind where he might see it, was save his own skin and to hell with the rest of the villagers. Stupid, they were, thinking that a collection of kiddie’s toys would save them in a heroic battle in which there could only be one winner. Gymboy and his cronies wouldn’t stand a chance, not against a mighty lord mounted on a fiery steed.

He hated Gymboy and what he was doing. Because, in his mind, he was leading his friends, even his relatives, to a certain death and guaranteeing victory to an unknown force that had a mighty throne.

He knew all about thrones. They were more than just chairs, they were forces in themselves, and any man who sat on one became more than a mere man. He became a kind of super-power imbued with more warrior skills than mere mortals armed with feathery sticks could ever understand.

“You seem to be a bit down in the dumps...”

The voice came from nowhere!

He had settled himself against a tree that he couldn’t see and was preparing himself for an unpleasant night in the wild forest, and then this voice came from nowhere.

It was a woman’s voice. And not just any woman, either. It was a beautiful woman’s voice, young by its timbre, delicate, yet within its syllables a power he couldn’t begin to put a name to.

“Who are you? Where are you?” he stammered, thinking of standing up but not quite sure how he was going to do it, what with all the aches And pains in his limbs as well as those where aches and pains had never been before.

“I’m here,” trilled the voice, and then, was it magic? He could see her. Or almost see her. There was an inexplicable glow where she was standing, and in that glow he could tell that her voice had told the truth: she was beautiful, and with such a bosom, so fine a head of hair, so bright her eyes, and the lips...

He had never seen such a beautiful woman in all of his days. Not even in the rapscallion times when he had been famed throughout the neighbourhood for his manly skills, hunting, laughing, joking, loving.

Yes, he had been a famous lover! At least, that’s how he remembered the youth that had been Kevvy. But there hadn’t been a single woman who had scorned his skills at night in the cot and who hadn’t gone around next day proclaiming the size and sturdiness of his manhood.

Had there?

“I am she without a name,” she whispered when his thoughts had ranged so far he was beginning to believe them.

“But everyone needs a name,” he blurted, “I am called Kevvy, and I am in search of the King, to join his forces and make a name for myself in glorious battle.”

“I suppose I need a name,” she mused, “can you think of one for me? I’m usually just the custodian of a herb garden and I call myself that out of pride and a love of thyme and parsley and sage, but that seems like a sort of irrelevant name out here, in the depths of a forest where few dare to tread.”

“Then I’ll give you a name,” he said, boldly, “I’ll give you a proper name. I’ll call you Angel, for it seems to me that’s exactly what you are: an angel from the gods come to release me from the anguish of this night, and tease me with your bright eyes and luscious lips.”

She looked at him and nodded slowly, then she spoke:

“And you say you are in search of the great King Jasper’s forces? To join them in a historic battle where fame can be earned, along with death and mutilation and dishonour.” Her voice was gentle, but her words were not. They held within them a threat of dire things that might or might not be, and sent an inexplicable shiver down his spine.

“My people are weak,” he told her, “and they believe they can defeat an army with childish toys. If I remain with them I will be weak also, and my end will come sooner than I planned!”

She smiled at him, and shook her head.

“Things are not always what they seem to be,” she whispered, “and weakness can become strength while apparent superiority can lead to failure. I have been around for many years, have seen many things, and know too many truths to be able to make a blasé statement about childish toys.”

“I know what is,” he said, stubbornly, “and I knew which side I am on. I am for strength and victory, not the humiliation of failure as toddlers’ toys fail to hold back a mighty force, which is surely inevitable.”

“And were you to get that fine victory by the side of a king,” she said, so quietly he had to strain his ears to hear her words, “were you to stand by a putrescent mound of your fellow men, all dead or dying, all reeking of defeat, what then?”

“I would be honoured,” he said, grandly, yet knowing how empty it sounded.

“Maybe,” she admitted, “and then, when the applause has died down this king would do what he always does when he perceives someone who is held high in victory...”

“He would? Are there honours involved? A throne of my own, perhaps? Riches beyond the greed of men?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head, “what he always does is smite the head from the shoulders of anyone who may rise and challenge his throne.

“No, friend Kevvy, you will barely last a day with your head properly where it should be after victory is proclaimed, so let us hope that it isn’t.”

And then the glow that was her beauty faded, and the coward found himself alone in the pitch dark of a night he hated.

© Peter Rogerson 28.11.18




© 2018 Peter Rogerson


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Added on November 28, 2018
Last Updated on November 28, 2018
Tags: forest, nightfall, lost, witch, angel, war


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing