Dumbstruck, King Amren gaped at Myrddin, who pulled back his hood to reveal glowing amber eyes. Amren recalled Rhan’s earlier threat that she would strike him dead after Myrddin arrived. Taken aback that the Druid was secretly there during the proceedings against Catrin, he cursed beneath his breath. The last time he had seen Myrddin was when he was an adolescent suffering lovesickness for Rhan, the same malady Catrin was experiencing with Marcellus.
Amren recalled stories told by bards at festivities that Myrddin was a wild hermit born of a mortal woman but sired by an incubus. From his demonic legacy, Myrddin inherited extraordinary knowledge of the past and present. The sun god Bel later bequeathed him with prophetic abilities. The staff in his hand rendered Myrddin magical powers. He wondered if the wild Druid’s sudden appearance was a harbinger of his own imminent demise.
“Did Rhan summon you?” he asked Myrddin.
The wild Druid proclaimed in a croaky voice, “The gods sent me as their messenger to counsel you in your time of greatest strife.”
Amren bristled. “What strife?”
“A week ago,” Myrddin said, twisting the strands of his gray beard with his fingers, “I dreamt that I had wandered out of the old forest to meet you on a footpath near the Ancient Oak. You asked, ‘Why have you come?’ I answered, ‘A demonic entity wants to exchange destinies with one of your daughters.’ After that, I immediately journeyed here to shine the gods’ truth on what you must do next to counter this iniquitous being. I hid in the back corner, so I could better understand the depths of your family’s strife.”
Wary of Myrddin’s true intent, Amren scrutinized the Druid’s weathered, crinkled face. “Have you come to help me break Rhan’s curse?”
Myrddin gave a crusty smirk. “Perhaps . . .”
Annoyed with the Druid’s vague answer, Amren snapped his fingers. “Directly answer my question or be off with you!”
Grinning slyly, Myrddin hunched over his staff like a gnarled oak branch and pounded it on the dark oak floor three times. The crystalline globe, embedded in the serpent’s mouth at the end of the staff, lit up like a rising sun. The wild Druid squinted at the orb’s brilliant surface. He intoned, “I see midday transform to night. Crickets chirp, but bees abuzz disappear. Frost hovers above treetops like death. Leaves fly as black ravens above forest moss. Blood moon shrouds the sun. Emerald hills turn barren. The diamond’s flash crowns the sun. Bees again pollinate Mother Earth.”
The grizzled Druid peered at Catrin through one eye while keeping the other shut. “Are you the keeper of the curse?”
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