The next hour was spent checking weapons and arranging squads. Roberts avariciously eyed the
one thing, they knew could truly affect the monster. He felt he should have the sword after all he was the Commanding Officer. He glanced around the Navy Tracker was examining the photographs they'd taken of the animal's tracks. In the light of day they looked even more like hoof prints.
While Oliver was talking to the other leaders Tony took the opportunity to gently steer Tangle behind a tent. Once out of sight she looked at him puzzled. He fidgeted unsure how to say it
In the end he just blurted it out.
"I've sort of been having visions," he didn't tell her they were dreams
"Visions? Visions about what?"
"This place, this mission, you!"
"Me?" he nodded "What about me?" Tony chewed his lip
"In one of them you sing some words. Words that bring this to life." He lifted Percy from his pouch. Tangle gave a small smile.
"I know a short invocation that is reputed in legend to wake Soul Sleepers but until today I thought it referred to oracle stones," She stroked the little rat. "But we must wait if we wake him too soon Mordred may sense his presence and our approach." Tony agreed this was a sensible then a shout went up. The Expeditionary Force was ready to move out. Tony showing more courage than he felt strode to the head of the column Tangle walked at his side. Oliver frowned at her.
"I want you further back in the middle where its safer."
"I need her with me," Tony protested
"No!" Oliver was adamant. "It was bad enough that his hot headed younger brother was leading the foray. There was no way he was risking his personnel to his command. Tony relented but inwardly he seethed. Why did his brother always have to have the last word surely the mission was important than his over inflated ego? Tony inhaled then shrugged, Oliver would have to
back down eventually. Roberts strode up the line to the front and took position between Oliver and his brother. The Tracker moved ahead of them, they would be following his lead initially. Tony glanced behind. Rhys the Welshman winked at him, Tony grinned as the tall man pointed to the top of his bow. Tony's fossil now adorned its point. Oliver noticed the direction of his younger Brother's gaze. He couldn't help the small niggle of envy that rose in his breast. This was supposed to be his team and his mission. Aloud he said.
"When this assignment is over I'm having your sword and that so called eye examined by experts. If as I suspect they possess some unnatural properties they are going in the SNO Vaults for safe keeping." Tony turned and suddenly snarled.
"The hell they are! You've been stealing my stuff since we were kids, well no more. You lay one finger on my property and I'll sue you off the face of the planet. You thieving git!"
Oliver hadn't expected his brother to object so vociferously
"I'm not trying to steal anything I want them protected."
"Gentlemen!" Robert's voice suddenly interrupted their escalating argument. "This is neither the time nor the place for such discussions." Oliver belatedly realized everyone was staring at him.
Tony scowled he was determined, he was not going to allow his brother to claim his sword or fossil. The Tracker coughed Roberts looked round at him nodded then raised and arm.
"Okay people let's move out! Remember to maintain formation and don't stray from the path for any reason." He looked to the lieutenant "I want your men to pair off and act as outlier scouts. Their job will be to guard our flanks."
"Yes Sir!" the officer saluted then turned and began barking orders to his platoon. There was a few minutes of shuffling then the column seemed to attain a rhythm but as they entered the forest conversation ceased and many fingers tightened around triggers. For the first hour they marched resolutely behind the Navy Tracker. As he walked Oliver pondered the creature's doglike features, surely if this thing had been around for a thousand plus years other people would have encountered it? Several ancient legends flittered through his brain. Lycaeon of Thebes, Anubis, Fenris, the Gytrash, Black Shuck, even the Eighteenth Century French monster.
The Beast of Gevaudon.
He glanced upwards as yet the trees were quite thinly placed, patches of sky were visible through the foliage. It was one of those rare occasions when the moon was still visible during the day. Oliver noted it was full and fat, then it hit him! A horrible creeping realization! The moon was full? A doglike creature that walked upright on two legs?
"Oh God!" He cried out. "Werewolf!"
"What?" Roberts looked at him in surprise. Oliver had realised he spoken aloud, he coughed awkwardly but didn't repeat his outburst. Instead he reached out and tugged the sleeve of the Tracker.
"Is it possible that the creature isn't hoofed but is in fact a toe runner like maybe a wolf?" The
Tracker was at that moment crouching to examine a print. At Oliver's insistence he peered closer at the peculiar shape, then he looked up slightly embarrassed that he had made such an elementary mistake
"I think you might be on to something see here," he pointed to the top of the mark in the soft earth. These small indentations could be vestigial claws," He stood up. "It is also well known among zoologists that wolves have more pronounced talons on their front paws than on their hind legs." Roberts raised a hand and halted the following column giving them time to discuss Oliver's new theory. The young lieutenant softly spoke.
"Um Colonel?" Roberts gave a small nod of his head indicating he could speak. "A lot of the older accounts say Excalibur was made of Moon Metal."
"Moon metal? What is that?"
"Silver sir! The element has long been associated with the moon and the deity Diana. Many Medieval Alchemists also used it to represent water." Tangle had sidled forward from the position Oliver had assigned her further down the line. She interrupted and added extra evidence to the debate.
"King Arthur was the son of Uther Pendragon. It is said he originally received the sword from a hand that emerged from the centre of a lake." Tom frowned.
"Wasn't Sir Kaye Arthur's brother, supposed to have thrown the sword back into it after
"Yes and no!" Tangle smiled at him. Three times Arthur sent him to accomplish this task. The first two times he hid the sword and lied. When Arthur asked him what he had seen. The king expected the hand of the Lady of the Lake to rise up and catch the weapon. When Kaye said he saw nothing the dying king knew he hadn't thrown it in."
"And the third time?" Rhys asked.
"By the time Kaye returned the last time Arthur was already being borne away to the isle of Avalon. Most people just assumed the sword had been cast into the lake."
"But it hadn't?"
"Clearly not!" Oliver observed dryly nodding toward Tony's sheathed weapon. The lieutenant stroked his chin.
"It sounds to me as if the Lady of the Lake was another allegory pointing to the moon and Diana.
"And by association indicate the real composition of the sword."
"Exactly!" the officer smiled at Oliver.
"Silver is a soft metal," Tom had so far kept quiet but metallurgy was his specialist subject.
"It would be next to useless as a weapon."
"In a normal battle yes," Oliver agreed "But if memory serves me right Silver has long been known to kill the ungodly creatures of the night in particular Werewolves."
"Silver bullets made from a sanctified crucifix." Martin knew then the Lieutenant softly said
"There were no guns in the dark ages. The first firearms didn't begin appearing until the late 1400s."
"Which means before then, the only way to kill such a monster would have been with a closer quarter weapon." Colonel Roberts finished. Oliver turned and stared at Tony. He instinctively tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword but his brother wasn't interested in taking it now he had more serious concerns.
"When we encounter the beast you stay well back."
"What? Why? No! Only I can!" Tony started to protest. Oliver didn't give him the chance.
"Let the rest of us lure it to the sacred soil of," he looked at the Tracker
"Devil's Lake!" the Amerind supplied Oliver nodded
"Where you Tangle will do your chanting thing and you Rhys will fire as many arrows as you can into it. We need to weaken it as much as possible to give Anthony the best chance of getting his blade into its heart."