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Vile Creatures

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When all magic was condemned within the boundaries of the Pendragon kingdom during the Great Purge, many of Teyla's people rose up in anger. Some were foolish enough to ignore the King's command and they paid dearly with their lives, burned at the stake. Her mother, Tagan, had been among their number, accused of being a witch. It was an evil time, full of pain and suffering for so many of her people as they were forced to leave their sacred grounds within the forests, streams, and meadows, and seek refuge beyond Camelot's borders. Since then they had become like nomads, moving their homes from one place to another to avoid confrontation with other Druid tribes and local villages. The old suffered most, unused to seeing their homes torn down at short notice and replaced with tents made of animal skins, and enduring the uncomfortable ride in rickety wagons as they moved on to new lands. Sometimes they were fortunate, spending one entire winter at the base of a mountain, sheltered from the worst of the stormy weather and snow, but other times they were forced to flee before they had even driven the first tent peg into the ground.

Several turns of the seasons earlier as the summer passed and the longer nights drew in, her father, Torren, had taken a small group to a nearby village. They had planned to sell the woven baskets and blankets created by their people for provisions to last through the long winter ahead, but they had never returned. Inquiries at the village were met with shrugs and head shakes. No one had seen them, and her eyes had drifted to the dark mountain overshadowing them, a shiver running along her spine.

It was Charin who had told her stories as a child; stories of the Dorocha, of those who had crossed the veil between life and death but whose hunger for a spark of life drove them to steal it from the living.

"This is what you sense," she had stated. "A gift from the Old Gods given to a few, to protect our people from vile creatures who refuse to pass on into the Light."

Taking up the mantle of leadership, Teyla had felt their evil presence during the long Winter that had followed her father's disappearance. That presence vanished with the Spring and she had not sensed it again until these past few days.

Rumors had reached the camp of a Druid army led by two sisters separated at birth - Morgause and Morgana. Teyla had seen many of the younger ones drifting away to join that army even though Uther Pendragon was no longer in the land of the living, succeeded by his son, who had shown only honor since the crown was set upon his head. Morgana, or Morgan Le Fey as she was known to the Druids because of her ethereal beauty, was a enchantress of great power but her heart was filled with darkness towards the Pendragons, with malice, and with a thirst for vengeance and for the throne she felt was hers by birthright as the illegitimate daughter of Uther Pendragon, and half-sister to Arthur.

"Teyla?"

She breathed in deeply and looked across the tent at Halling, seeing his worried expression.

"I have sensed them again," she stated grimly, knowing he would understand her meaning.

His expression turned as grim as hers. "I spoke with some of those who have joined forces with Morgause. They speak of Morgan Le Fey sacrificing her sister using dark blood magic to raise an army of the dead, the Dorocha, to march against Camelot." He paused. "They also say Mordred has joined Morgan Le Fey's army."

Teyla had heard of the prophesy, that Mordred would be Arthur's undoing even though Arthur had once saved the Druid boy's life.

"And what of Emrys?" she asked.

"He believes in King Arthur, that he will be a good and just king to all. The Once and Future King of Albion."

Teyla nodded. "Morgana is blinded by the darkness within her. I must warn Emrys of the Dorocha. Together he and I may be able to send them back to the other side of the Veil before it is too late."

"We," he emphasized. "We must warn-."

"No." Teyla reached up and gripped Halling by his shoulders, waiting for him to lean down and touch his forehead to hers before she continued. "I must do this alone, my friend. You must stay with our people and guide them through these dark days."

She was grateful when he did not argue, understanding the wisdom of her words, but before she could step back the tent flap opened and Jinto entered.

"Teyla, Father, there is news of a final battle at Camlann in the White Mountains."

"What news?" Halling asked.

"They say King Arthur has defeated the Druids, and many have died. Some swear they saw Mordred slain by King Arthur but not before the King was dealt a fatal blow using a sword forged in Dragon's Breath. They say Morgan Le Fey is dead too, killed by Emrys." He barely drew breath. "They say the Great Dragon, Kilgharrah, came and carried Emrys and the dying King from the battlefield."

Teyla looked to Halling. "Avalon. I must go there."

Jinto looked confused but Halling nodded in understanding. Teyla knew Halling would explain it to his son but for now there was no time to lose. Avalon, known as the Isle of Apples to those unaware of its magic, was barely a few hours walking distance from their current encampment. At a fast pace Teyla knew she could reach the lake in less than half that time.

"I will send word to Kanaan," Halling promised.

Quickly, she gathered up what she would need and headed out with Camma by her side, knowing she would not be able to dissuade the younger woman. Together they ran swiftly through the forest at the base of the mountain and across the meadows, high with wild grass. They stopped only when the reached the lake shore, and Teyla closed her eyes, letting the magic enhance her own natural abilities as she sought Emrys. She allowed her senses to guide her feet, running swiftly along the lake shore with Camma a few steps behind, only stopping when she saw a small boat floating out across the lake towards the island with no one manning its oars. A lone figure stood by the shore, hunched in grief, and she knew from the power emanating from him that he was Emrys. In her heart she had hoped the prophesy would prove false and Emrys would have found a means to save the young King at Avalon; the boat was carrying the dead king to his resting place.

Slowly she approached, waiting for Emrys to acknowledge her and Camma before Teyla stepped forward to offer comfort at his loss, for all knew of the strong friendship between the Warlock and Arthur Pendragon.

He greeted her solemnly; eyes red, and cheeks stained with tears. The village boy called Merlin, whom she had once met many years earlier, was gone and she was no longer certain if the man now standing in his place - Emrys - would care to offer any aid.

"I regret the necessity of coming to you in your time of grief, but my need is great."

"The restless spirits," he murmured.

"Yes. Morgan Le Fey tore the Veil using blood magic."

"The Veil was closed by the sacrifice of a great warrior... a friend... sending the Dorocha back to where they came from," He paused, frowning, "But The Cailleach warned of darker magic giving some almost human form."

Teyla had not seen one with her own eyes but in her childhood she had heard stories of deathly pale skinned, white haired creatures in the form of men, with Celtic blood symbols etched into their faces, creeping through the hours of darkness in search of a life spark. The Wraith.

"I have sensed their presence closing in on my people. I can fend them off for a time with mortal weapons, but I cannot send them back beyond the Veil without stronger magic than I possess alone."

She watched as Emrys cast his eyes back across the lake to where the boat had disappeared within the mists of Avalon. He took a breath, closing his eyes and nodding.

"I will help you."

****

Without horses, the journey to the mountains took two days but Teyla could sense the Wraith drawing closer with each passing mile, recalling the terrible feeling that had swept through her during that long Winter after losing her father.

Not all of the Druids possessed magic, and most of those who could cast a spell were weak compared to Morgan Le Fey and Emrys. Teyla was stronger than most, able to start a fire with an incantation, and Charin had ensured she knew of many potions and words to drive evil spirits from a sick body, though Charin had always complained Teyla's Tuttleroot Soup was awful. She smiled in memory of the Wise Woman as Camma insisted on cooking. Camma was young, barely into her sixteenth turn of the seasons, but Teyla could sense she would have the gift of magic, though it was too soon to tell how powerful she might become one day.

Emrys remained a silent figure huddled around the small camp fire and Teyla respected his wishes, allowing him to grieve. In those two days she had heard little more than a please and thank you but this night he looked up at her as she settled opposite him. By the flickering light of the fire, casting shadows across his face, he looked older than his years.

"We will need to draw them in, using a spell of cleansing fire to destroy their bodies and send their spirits back beyond the Veil." He looked awkward for a moment. "They will not come for me as they cannot feed off my life spark."

"Then Camma and I must bring them to you," Teyla stated.

"It will be dangerous for they are fast and strong... but I can teach you a spell to hold them at bay for just a short time." He glanced across the fire at Camma. "Both of you."

They reached the mountains the next day, climbing rocky paths towards the summit until they reached a cave entrance. Teyla could feel the dark magic tainting the air around them. No grass or shrubs grew out of the barren earth and Teyla could sense no other life around them, not a bird or even an insect, but she could sense the vile creatures, close enough almost to touch. Death hung in the air and the stench increased as they entered the cavern, moving beyond the opening into a corridor of rock, wide enough for three or four people walking abreast that stretched ahead of them. An eerie deep red light pulsed on and off like a macabre heartbeat and Camma drew back from the sticky wall with a sharp breath as the light Emrys formed with a small incantation revealed desiccating corpses strewn around them. Some corpses were cast aside on the cavern floor, fetched up against the walls, while others were held in shallow chambers with something akin to thick, spider webs, sealing them inside a webbed tomb. Each one had marks upon their chest, five piercings surrounding a deeper mark. Charin had said the Wraith fed by touch, sucking the life spark from a human through a mouth in its hand.

"They are very close," Teyla whispered even though she knew Emrys could sense them too.

He nodded and glanced around the stone corridor. "We can trap them here."

Teyla looked across at Camma, seeing the fear on the young girl's face.

"Camma, you must return to the outer cavern-."

"No. I must go with you."

Teyla smiled, proud of her. "You must go back, Camma, and ensure none escape the cleansing fire. Use the spell Emrys taught you to hold them until we can send their spirits back beyond the Veil."

Camma looked uncertain for a moment before realizing Teyla had not necessarily moved her to a place of safety, for if even just one Wraith slipped past Emrys then only she would be standing between it and its continuing existence this side of the Veil. She nodded and turned back leaving Teyla alone with Emrys.

"I'm ready... Are you?"

Emrys smiled wryly. "Bring them to me."

Warily, Teyla made her way along the rest of the corridor of tombs and into another chamber; an empty chamber despite the overpowering sense of their presence. A small sound echoed gently, drawing her eyes upwards and she gasped softly as she saw the figures of humanoid creatures curled into strange cocoon nests attached by the same spider-like webbing to the cave ceiling. This close, the pressure inside her head began to form words and she realized she could hear their sleeping thoughts, joined in one mind like bees in a hive. Above her she could count as many as twelve nests with possibly more in the darker reaches of the cavern. The strange red light still pulsed as if it was a common heartbeat shared by the sleeping night creatures.

She knew how she could draw them to her, using her own thoughts to guide their hunger towards her life spark while shielding her actual presence from them, watching as they began to writhe inside their nests, bony fingers tearing through the membranes as one by one they dropped to the cavern floor, hissing and snarling. She waited until all were awake before dropping the shield, seeing their snake-slitted eyes focus on her sharply. Teyla turned and ran faster than she had ever run before, hearing the snarls and hisses on her heels as she ran towards the light filtering from the world beyond this cavern. One grasped at her, catching her hair and she spoke the incantation taught to her by Emrys, feeling it drop away. She struck out at another with her bantos sticks, feeling the reverberation as it hit solid flesh. Emrys's voice, deep and powerful, filled the air around her and she leaped past him as the first tongues of cleansing fire sprung from his fingertips, the Wraith screeching as the fire spread back along the corridor into the far chamber, melting the dead-like flesh from their bones before they in turn burned. She watched as they became Dorocha once more, their evil spirits torn away from this world to beyond the Veil.

One managed to escape past them and she ran after it, finding it frozen in place as Camma spoke the incantation. She dealt it several crippling blows with her bantos, adding her voice to the spell holding it until cleansing fire engulfed it. It screamed in rage as his flesh burned away, becoming smoke that dissipated as it was wrenched back behind the Veil.

Breathing heavily, Teyla paused and let her senses reach outwards but she could no longer feel their vile presence, and she laughed, seeing the first glimmer of a smile touch Emrys's lips.

****

In the years that followed Emrys came back to see her often, sometimes spending a year or two before moving on, always watching and waiting for a sign of Arthur's return as promised by Kilgharrah. Teyla lived a long and happy life, surrounded by her children, her grandchildren, and the Athosian people she loved.

Emrys returned to be with her on her last day, full of love and respect for her. It seemed as if he had not aged a single day in all these years, having chosen to come to her in his younger form.

"Your journey has not yet ended," he murmured to her. "We shall meet again, Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Torren and Tagan."

She smiled. She would see him when Albion needed Arthur Pendragon, the Once and Future King, though she felt a moment of sadness knowing time would have no meaning for her or for the spirit of King Arthur, but Emrys would live each day through the long centuries ahead. As the Veil began to open for her she reached out and caressed his cheek.

"May you forever walk in the light," she whispered weakly before her hand dropped away and her spirit left her body.

She glanced around one last time at her old and frail body, at her strong son and daughters and their beautiful children, still singing the ritual words to bless her passing. She could feel the call of Avalon, and she sensed Emrys easing her passage across the Veil as she passed beyond The Cailleach's domain and into the light.

It seemed only a moment passed before she opened her eyes again to a new world.

END