When four mythological heroes from the Celtic Otherworld travel to modern day Wales in search of a powerful magical text, things are a little different to how they remember.
“Are you guys here for the FantasyCon by any chance? You’re in the wrong place.”
The four adventurers stood blinking under the florescent light of the foyer of the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. They certainly looked the part, decked from head to toe in leather, fur and chain mail.
A small boy stepped forward from the group and removed the hood of his tunic, revealing a pale, cherubic face.
“Ooooooh!” cooed the receptionist, “and how old are you little one?
“My name is Taliesin of the Shining Brow and I am five thousand Summers old. We have come for a text, with the power to defeat a great evil. The last one in the nine worlds exists here. I will have it.”
“I love that he stays in character! So cute.”
Bronn of the Hundred Battles shifted awkwardly from one bearlike foot to the other. Morgana the Fey flicked her crow-black hair, impatiently gesturing with one hand.
The receptionist’s head hit the desk with a pliant thud.
“Excellent. Now take the key from about her neck,” continued the child, “it will grant us access. Careful! Do not let her skin touch yours, or you can never return home.”
• • •
Once inside the vault the four heroes looked about them in wonder. The room was vast, and filled with a forest of metal cabinets stretching up to the ceiling high above.
“Who knew these mortals could build such things!” marvelled Morgana.
“We must find what we came for.” said Taliesin.
“Allow me.” said Gawain, “HAWK!”
Transforming into a handsome falcon, Gawain ‘The Hawk of May’ soared among the rows of cabinets, scanning the labels with his beady raptor eyes.
“Why does he have to actually say ‘hawk’ before he turns?” asked Taliesin.
“It’s his thing.” deadpanned Morgana.
“Hey! What are you people doing in here? This is a restricted area!”
The three of them span around to see a burly security guard in high-vis.
Before the other two could stop him, Bronn of the Hundred Battles reached out, and with one gauntleted hand crushed the man’s skull like an over-ripe plum. He dropped to the floor, spewing blood and brains.
“Erm. I think we need to leave. Now.” said Morgana.
“Agreed.” said Taliesin.
“Where’s the nearest portal?”
“Stone circle. Down by the sea.”
“Let’s go. Where’s Gawain?”
On cue, Gawain descended in a magnificent blur of golden-brown, transfiguring back into human form as his feet kissed the ground. Clutching a perspex box, he flashed a dashing smile.
“Careful. It could be protected by powerful… ”
Too late. Gawain had torn open the protective case, revealing a brightly painted Celtic manuscript.
Lights blinked red. Alarms sounded. The huge steel door slammed shut, sealing their only way out. No key-card in the world would open it now.
“We are lost!”
“No. Stand aside friends.” said Taliesin.
He stilled himself. Felt those deep currents welling up within. He abruptly held up one hand. The alarms ceased. He made a delicate motion with the other… and the steel door turned into wild flowers and tumbled silently to the floor.
Down in the car park, several police cars screeched simultaneously to a halt just as the four heroes emerged from the foyer covered in petals.
“Freeze!” the cops shouted in unison, tasers drawn.
“BATTLE!” bellowed Bronn of the Hundred Battles, waving his axe and charging towards them.
“No Bronn! Don’t kill anyone else!”
Bronn stopped in his tracks, suddenly deflated, when he was struck by six tasers at once. They had no effect on the half-giant whatsoever.
It was now, that Bronn of the Hundred Battles employed his one and only supernatural power.
He made his beard grow.
Bronn’s face contorted with furious concentration as great tendrils of hair shot forward, snatching the weapons from the cop’s hands and ensnaring their legs; dangling them upside down like dolls.
“Well done Bronn. Very good!” encouraged Morgana.
“Don’t patronise him.” hissed Gawain.
“Be still!” snapped Taliesin. “We must employ one of these horseless chariots to get to the portal. Come! I’ll drive.”
By the time they crashed into one of the iron lampposts down on the waterfront, word had gone out on police radio that four escaped mental patients were running amok, trashing the town.
However, the FantasyCon had descended on Aberystwyth. The streets were thronging with vampires, stormtroopers and goblins. Identifying the suspects now would be impossible.
“Cool costume man!” said a passing Warlock.
“Silence worm!” barked Morgana, “where is the circle?”
“It should be here!” said Taliesin “they’ve moved the water!”
“Damn these mortals!”
“There! Under the sea. Onwards!”
And with that, they entered onto the old Victorian pier, attempting to traverse to the far end, where they could maybe leap off and swim down to the stone circle beneath the waves.
A blinking neon sign read, ‘Aberystwyth Amusement Arcade’ beyond which was a strange, dark world of flashing lights and noises.
“This place is full of demons.”
“Keep moving. Don’t look directly at them!”
“Excuse me mister, could I borrow a token?”
“Don’t let him touch you!”
Too late. The small child had placed his little hand on Bronn’s bare forearm. The half-giant froze in fear. Then aged a thousand years in a matter of seconds before crumbling to dust before his best friend’s eyes.
“Bronnnn!” screamed Gawain. “I’m outta here! HAWK.”
Gawain transformed, but in his haste was sucked through a nearby extractor fan, exploding in a cloud of feathers.
Morgana and Taliesin fled through the arcade; robes flapping; Taliesin still clutching the precious manuscript. Out the other side, the end of the pier was in sight where there loomed…
A bouncy castle.
“The portal must be directly below that tiny yellow citadel!”
Police helicopters circled over-head. This was their only hope. They leapt.
Taliesin mouthed the incantation of transportation.
• • •
Three hundred miles away, at Stonehenge, an inflatable castle suddenly materialised in mid-air above the ancient monument.
Image – Chaos at Aberystwyth Pier!!