06 January 2013 @ 10:36 pm
*NaNo Project* Part the Sixth - Section the First - Magic - 954AD  
The very next morning I was awoken early by Gaius, who had snuck into the library, shaking me awake.

I yawned and blinked, it was still dark, but then seeing as my room was more a closet than anything else this didn’t tell me much. “What time is it?”

“Just before dawn,” Gaius answered, throwing back the sheets in an effort to get me moving. “Come on, hurry up, it takes a good six or seven hours to get to the Labrinyth and everyone wants to make it there before nightfall.”

I hadn’t actually considered that…the fact we would be riding there. Since arriving in Camelot I hadn’t got so much as near a horse, let alone attempted to ride one. Quite the oversight I realised at that moment.

Gaius was telling me to hurrying up, practically shoving me out of my bed.

“I don’t think I can come,” I blurted, it seemed that tact would never be a great skill of mine.
Gaius let go of my arm and stepped back. “What? What do you mean? I’ve told you before there’s nothing to worry about –“

“It’s not that,” I was quick to tell him, “it’s…well I don’t ride.”

“You don’t ride?” Gaius repeated.

“Horses, I’ve never really ridden one before, in a saddle I mean…I always rode in a cart.”

It was still quite dark but I could see Gaius staring at me as if I was speaking in a completely different language.

“What?” I wondered if perhaps I was still half asleep and I wasn’t speaking in a comprehensible manner.

“You’ve never ridden a horse? How could you not? Does Carleon have some sort of law that prevents it?”

“Of course not. It’s just…” I shrugged. “I don’t know, my family just always used a cart, maybe because we travelled in a large party?”

Gaius shook his head. “Well, you’ll have to learn, it’s not that hard, we’re not planning on galloping the whole way there. Besides we don’t have that many good roads here, so really, you wouldn’t want to be in a cart if you can help it.”

I didn’t know if that was a good idea, but Gaius really didn’t give me a chance to bring up my apprehension, grabbing my arm and finally hauling me out of the bed.

“Come on, let’s go.”

Gaius shuffled me along, all the way out of the castle to the stables where the rest of the group was waiting.

“What took you so long, Gaius?” One of them, I think it was Clark called out. “We were starting to think you weren’t going to show.”

“I had to get Geoff, seems he’s not a morning person,” Gaius gave a chuckle. “He’s also never ridden a horse before.”

If I thought Gaius had been surprised by that announcement the group made his reaction look positively low key, it was nothing less than an explosion really, with various members wanting to know if Gaius was joking and if not how I could be coming. Eventually, Alice stepped forward and held up her hands in a gesture of calm.

“Boys stop yelling before you wake up the entire city,” she declared giving each of us a look. Then she turned to me. “You’ve never ridden a horse before? Have you never even ridden in a saddle then?”

I shook my head. “Only in wagons and one time I was in a trap.” I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to explain exactly what that was, but whether the rest of the group knew what I was talking about or not there was still a lot of grumbling from the male members of the group.

“We only have a weekend to do this,” Ian spoke up, “we don’t have time to teach someone who doesn’t know one end of a horse from the other how to ride one.” He looked in my direction. “Er…sorry.”

I couldn’t be too offended although I did feel like pointing out I certainly knew the difference between the front end and back end of a horse.

Gaius made a face. “Don’t be so melodramatic Ian, Geoffrey’s intelligent he’ll figure it out quick enough, right Geoff?”

I hestitated in answering.

“You can’t pick up horse riding in a few minutes, Gaius,” Roderick added, folding his arms. “I don’t know how long Linus let you off for, but old man Fletcher wants me back by dawn Monday, if I’m not I can forget my employment.”

I spoke up. “I don’t want to put anyone’s job in jeopardy.” I looked at Gaius. “Really, thank you for inviting me to join you, but I don’t want to cause you trouble.”

“You’re no trouble, Geoff.” Gaius was firm and glared at the rest of the group, looking more than annoyed now, he was actually angry. I started feeling even more uncomfortable, I mean I really didn’t want to cause trouble and here I was in the middle of a fight.

“Hey, look, shut up everyone!” Elric stepped in, turning to me. “Why don’t you just get on the horse, let’s see what technique you have…if any.”

Well, that was awkward having to climb atop a rather large horse in front of an audience, but Gaius was giving me an encouraging look and I didn’t want to let him down, he was after all my first friend here in Camelot.

I had of course seen plenty of people mount a horse before, so I had a general idea how it was accomplished, however, getting my foot in the stirrup was no easy task, for one thing it was pretty high up off the ground, I wasn’t exactly used to lifting my leg that far, and the first time I put the wrong foot in the wrong stirrup and had to remove my foot and try again lest I end up facing backward and proving Ian right.

Once I had the right foot in I had to swing my leg up and over which proved to be even more difficult, but as I struggled I suddenly had help, Gaius had stepped forward and gave me a boost and the next thing I knew I was atop the horse and seemingly very high off the ground. For a moment I almost panicked not knowing what to hold onto before remembering the reins, which I grabbed hold of immediately.

“There,” Gaius stepped back and turned to his friends. “He’s on it, he’s fine.”

The group looked as convinced of that as I was, for one thing the horse wasn’t even moving and I was all ready intimidated, wondering if I really would be able to keep a decent hold once the horse was on its way.

“He hasn’t even put it at a trot yet,” Maxim spoke, folding his arms.

Gaius looked more than a little annoyed and looked up at me. “You can do that, right Geoff?”

I looked back and gave a nervous swallow, I had a vague idea of how to get a horse to move, but I really didn’t trust myself to dig my heels in. I had no idea how much pressure I was supposed to use, the last thing I wanted was to use too much and end up on a galloping horse!

Gaius leaned in. “Just keep hold of the reins, pull them back and say ‘woah’ when you need to stop. I’ll get you going.”

Before I had a chance to question if this really was a good idea, Gaius had given the horse a rather sharp tap on the flank and next think I knew the horse was moving along at what I supposed was a leisurely pace, but felt very fast to me.

I held the reins so tightly that it was a wonder that my fingers didn’t fall off. As the horse made its way across the stable yard, I felt a bit wobbly but there didn’t seem too much danger of me falling off, but this was a smoothly swept dirt yard, it seemed to be the furthest thing away from the rough dirt tracks that we’d be riding on the way to the Labyrinth.

“Pull the reins a bit to the left, Geoff,” I head Gaius call and noticed that the horse seemed rather content to keep heading towards the stone wall that fenced of the stables.

I gave a cautious tug, which didn’t seem to do anything, so taking a deep breath I pulled a little more firmly and the horse did start to swing around, which immediately made me feel like I was going to topple from the saddle! I stayed up right though and Gaius kept urging me to pull the reins and eventually I completed a circle and was heading right back towards him and the group.

“There, look, he’s a quick study, he’s learning all ready.” Gaius announced, as I kept on heading their way until he had to rather loudly remind me to pull back and tell the horse ‘woah’, which I was surprised to find did work. But the horse and I ended up being quite close to the group, one of the horses hooves was almost on top of Alice’s foot. I gave her an apologetic wince.

Roderick and Elric looked at each other, but apparently decided that arguing with Gaius wasn’t worth the aggravation.

Roderick spoke up, his arms folded. “Fine, let him come, but you’ll have to stay with him, we’ll ride ahead.”

“Fine with me.” Gaius shot back not sounding all that fine with it at all.

It seemed the matter was settled though and soon the rest of them had saddled horses of their own and we were setting off.

My fingers were beginning to go numb with the tight hold I was exerting on the reins, but I couldn’t bring myself to loosen my grip. I looked over at Gaius as he climbed onto a horse and moved up next to me.

“Do you think this is a good idea?” I questioned him again. “I don’t want you to miss out on anything that happens at the Labyrinth.”

Gaius waved a hand dismissively. “Oh, they’re exaggerating, even at your pace it won’t take all that long to get to get to the Labyrinth, we’ll definitely get there with time to explore.”

I still thought it a very fool-hardy idea but Gaius would not be swayed, so the rest of the group saddled up and soon we were walking our horses through the streets of Camelot heading southwest. Gaius rode beside me and Alice was beside him.

"See, Geoff it's not so bad."

Indeed it wasn't, though I considered pointing out the obvious, namely that I'd only been on the horse for about ten minutes, if that. Not to mention we were riding slowly since we didn't want to wake the entire lower town, once we were through the gate and the town was behind us the rest of the group picked up their pace, just as I thought they would.

Horse riding was definitely not the sort of activity I enjoyed, the constant jolt of the trotting made my teeth clash together whenever I was unprepared for it and that turned out to be often. Furthermore before we had even cantered for an hour my rear end was all ready starting to feel the effects of the constant motion. I was absolutely sure that come noon I was going to be in a lot of pain.

I suppose on the plus side I was at least keeping up with the rest of the group. I had expected Gaius and I to be left in the dust , but we kept up enough that Gaius was able to join in the groups conversation about what we might find once we reached the Labriynth.

Alice was firmly of the opinion that the place would be non-descript, hiding in plain sight as it were, so that the average - by which I assumed were the unmagical - would nt be tempted to enter it recklessly thinking that it might contain great treasure.

Ian on the other hand thought the opposite, namely that the Labrinyth would be like nothing any of us had ever seen and would probably have an imposing entrance complete with a warning to stay out.

I rather hoped Alice was right, because otherwise we were going to be trespassing and I was certain that if so it wouldn't end well for us.

Soon enough though that was the least of my worries, as predicted my rear end started to find the whole riding process not at all to its liking and I found it all but impossible to stop wincing and just generally making a sound. It didn't go unnoticed eventually Roderick looked over his shoulder and asked me if I was having trouble.

"Does it always hurt like this?" I asked through my teeth (clenching them was the only way I could keep from accidentally biting my own tongue.)

Roderick gave Gaius a smug look. "I don't know, Gaius, does it?"

Gaius gave him a less than polite look then turned to me. "It does when you're not used to it, but we'll be stopping for lunch soon, right everyone?"

Fortunatey that turned out to be the case, a clearing beside a small stream appearing on our left like a God send.

What wasn’t a God send was when I had to climb off the horse, swimming my leg over the saddle proved almost impossible and I was quite certain Ian and Roderick were having a good laugh at my expense while Gaius came over to assist me.

“Don’t let them get to you,” he advised me giving the other two a glowering look.

“I’m not really worried about them,” I grunted as pain shot up my legs, I looked at him. “I swear I won’t be able to walk by the time we get to the labrinyth.”

Gaius looked somewhat uncertain. “Well, we probably won’t go into the labrinyth as soon as we arrive, it’ll be close to dark by then. You should be all right by tomorrow morning.”

I wasn’t entirely sure about that but I didn’t feel up to getting into an arguement so instead hobbled over to the stream to get a drink and wash my face, hoping that might make me feel better. That turned out to be a very bad idea, leaning over caused enough pain that I almost lost my balance and almost ended up in the stream.

Luckily Gaius had come over to get water as well and managed to take hold of my arm preventingmy fall.

“Why don’t you sit down,” Gaius encouraged me, “I’ll bring you a waterskin.”

I wasn’t too sure if sitting down was a good idea, but I did at least lean against a tree.

Alice came over with a sandwich in hand. “You’re doing very well for your first time,” she reassured me offering me the sandwich which I took gratefully.

“I hope I’m not slowing everyone down too much,” I answered ruefully.

Alice waed a hand “I wouldn’t worry about it Ian and Roderick can be real pains, they think the Labrinyth has been waiting for them, sort of like destiny.”

I paused just as I was about to take a bite. “They...do? Do they have any reason to believe that?”

Alice gave a chuckle. “Aside from their own egos? Certainly not, we don’t really know what the Labrinyth was constructed for, it probably is a test for some group, but I very much doubt that it’s us.” She gave me a smile, which I returned before Gaius joined us with a now full waterskin that I took a good swig off before returning to the sandwich. I had no idea what was in it exactly, but it tasted all right so I polished it off quickly.

It seemed as if we had only just arrived before Ian announced that it was time to head off again. I had to bite back a groan, but I unless I wanted to stay here by myself and ride back to Camelot by myself I was going to have to keep going.

This time Gaius had to all but manhandle me into the saddle, he was certainly stronger than he looked and then we were on our way once more.

As we continued on along the road such as it was I made a vain attempt to enjoy the scenery rather than concentrate on the increasing pain I was feeling. But really there’s only so much interest one can find in a forest before even the most curious becomes bored. I have to admit forests never really interested me in the first place, let alone when every muscle was beginning to ache, soon I was merely counting the minutes, wondering how long it would take to get there.

“Well we won’t make it by nightfall, but we’ll be quite close, we’ll probably be able to see it at least...”

As Gaius promised just before the sun dipped out of sight we crested a hill and found ourselves overlooking an enormous maze.

Not that I really noticed at first, as we had ridden on for hours I had started to droop over and by the time we got to the top of the hill I was all but drapped over my horse’s neck.

“Geoff, Geoffrey!” I was shocked out of my stupour by Gaius who reached over and took hold of my arm giving it a shake. “Wake up we’re here!”

Every muscle protested as I sat up in the saddle but I got my first view of the Labrinyth of Gedref.

I must admit, it was truly a sight to behold. I had seen some drawings of it in one of the books I researched before coming on the trip, but it had given no sense of scale. The Labrinyth was enormous, it seem to stretch in all directions and I wondered if it was even possible to go through it, it looked as if it would take years.

The rest of the group stared upon in awe also but there was something in their expressions that said more, obviously it was the magic of the maze, not that I felt anything. Whatever it was though was strong enough that Maxim at least seemed ready to go into the maze at that moment, seemingly ready to keep on riding although we had to be at least two or three hours ride away.

“Hey, slow down, we’re not going any further tonight,” Gaius’s voice sounded very loud and it seemed to shake everyone out of there revere and we all turned to him.

Maxim looked more than a little disappointed and I remembered Gaius mentioning that he in particular had high hopes that the maze would give him more control or greater access to his magic or some such.

The rest of group agreed with Gaius however, even Ian and Roderick, the later in fact declared that we needed to set up our camp and prepare our dinner.

Of course, this was easier said than done for me, I figured that after so many hours atop that horse I would have been more than ready to get off, but I was also wreary, so much so that I wasn’t sure I could even do it.

I might actually have ended up falling asleep in the saddle if not for Gaius appearing at my side and getting ready to help me down. It took quite a while because I appeared to have forgotten how to move my legs and arms properly. Eventually I ended up sort of...falling off which meant Gaius had to catch me, which somehow he managed to do without getting off balance himself.

“Whoah! Are you all right, Geoff?”

I licked my dry lips, every muscle was aching and even my bones hurt. “Not really,” I rasped.

Gaius looked concerned, putting his arm around my shoulder and leading me over to where the rest of the group had started making a fire pit and laying down blankets on the ground. Alice looked up from where she was going through knapsacks for the food and her brow immediately creased with concern. “Gaius, is he all right?”

“Not really,” Gaius looked at me, then back at Alice. “I think we...er...I might have pushed Geoff a bit too hard.”

Alice shook her head. “Gaius you let your enthuiasm get away from you.” She got to her feet and came over to me, peering into my face. “He looks utterly exhausted, let’s get him off his feet and see if we can’t mix something together for his pain.”

Gaius nodded and the next thing I knew I was being urged to sit down, which I resisted at first since the ground looked to be very hard and I was certain it would only cause my all ready painful body even more discomfort. But eventually Gaius coaxed me into sitting and since it was on the top of a few blankets it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

Of course once I’d lain down I was quite certain that I was never going to be able to move ever again, which no doubt would be quite a problem, though I suppose they could create a makeshift litter and carry me back.

Gaius gave me some more water to drink and it wasn’t long before Alice returned, with what I don’t know, but soon I heard the sound of pestle against mortar. It was quite a soothing sound and I had almost been lulled off to sleep when I heard Richard remark, rather nastily, I thought.

“Gaius did you just bring this poor fool along so you and Alice could work on your healing magic?”

“Shut up, Dick,” Gaius snapped back, which earned a few snickers.

“I’m just saying.” Richard shot back. “Why would you bring along some bookworm? He doesn’t even have a lick of talent.”

“I wasn’t aware that our group restricted people on the basis of whether they have magic or not,” Gaius sounded quite agitated now. “Have the rules changed?”

“Might never have been a rule, but it made sense,” I heard Roderick speak up now. “After all what are we all doing here if it’s not to test our abilities? What exactly is Geoffrey here going to test? The limits of our patience.”

I sensed Gaius getting to his feet and heard him marching over to where the rest of them were. The last thing I wanted was to get in between friends and start a fight, but there wasn’t all that much I could do, there was no way I would be able to get up, I made an attempt though.

Alice seemed to sense what I was trying to do and immediately she lay a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry,” she whispered. “Roderick and Gaius always argue, I’d be worried if they didn’t to be honest.”

I wasn’t too sure if I believed that, but it seemed the group had wandered off out of earshot because I couldn’t make out any of their words anymore.

“Right,” Alice had picked up the mortar now and got back to grinding...whatever was in it. “Now you just need to drink this. It should help.” She assured me and then I heard her speak a few words I didn’t understand, no doubt some sort of incantation. Then she was holding the mortar to my lips and helping my lift my head so I could drink the mixture without choking. I hesitated somewhat though, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t trust Alice, although I really didn’t know her, it was more a concern that...well...magic just wasn’t natural. Was this even safe?

Alice realised my trepridition and spoke reassuringly. “It’s all right, it’s a simple mixture, I promise it’s completely safe.”

Well, I had to trust that was so since just the act of lifting my head was sending shooting pain all over.

At least the mixture tasted all right, in fact compared to the medicines I had taken during my childhood it was positively pleasant!

To say nothing of how fast it acted! I had barely swallowed it and I could all ready feel its effects. Chiefly my muscles relaxing and the pounding in my head seemed to ease.

“Thank you,” I said, my voice sounded far away to me and I didn’t even have the strenght to open my eyes. In fact I was starting to nod off to sleep.

I was dimly aware of the fact that the voices of the others were starting to get louder, although I couldn’t muster any interest in it this time. I was vaguely aware of Alice patting my arm and wishing me a good rest before getting to her feet.

What happened next...I have no idea.
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