Hand of Glory
Dagonet's only thoughts were of his own hearth, in lands faraway as he succumbed to the numbingly cold water that was soon, he thought, to be his tomb. He had not thought on honor and sacrifice, only of a few moments of time. Time enough for Arthur and the knights to retreat in safety. The last time he had stabbed the ice he thought his very bones shook within him and he heard Bors shouting his name. It was as a shard of guilt buried in him as coldness radiated out from the crack, breaking and rumbling beneath him a thousand times over. The ice was tough as a thick olive tree, and he thought for a moment that he could step back and watch the Saxons fall through the ice and laugh at their feeble attempts. But his feet hit the freezing water before he even reach out and grab hold to the ice.
There was no pain at first, for a few precious heartbeats. Then, the pain resounded through his skin as the cold seeped into his bones and he fell through the water and under the ice. He tried to thrash his way upwards, against the currents tearing at his legs pulling him farther from life and into the muffed murky blue world below. He knew he was dying. Whatever hope he had drifted with the currents and he let himself go, convulsing from the cold.
Hands suddenly covered his mouth, his eyes, his nose. He felt warmth leaking into his frozen skin. The hands were strong, forcing him down. He struggled, feeling as if the air still held within his lungs was sucked out. As the warmth grew, air began to fill his lungs. He took a tentative breath. Air seemed to flow through the fingers of the disembodied hands. He took another deep breath, the dizzying darkness subsiding from his vision. Life was returning to him, underneath the cracking ice, hearing as Saxons fell to his once fate only moments ago. Men struggled underneath the ice, sucking at air bubbles, crying out as the icy water filled their mouths, freezing their lips to the undersurface.
He felt himself pulled downwards towards darker waters, the hands still covering his face as a protective hawk's glove withstands the claws of a bird. Down into the depths he went, no longer a soldier, a knight, but a man in need of refuge. His eyes were still covered when he felt the cool breath of true air hit his face and his hands felt jagged rock beneath him, slippery yet crustily soft. Moss, he thought. But how?
A cave. Under the ice, far beneath it, perhaps in the very roots of the mountains surrounding him. The hands released him and he fell heavily on the frosty moss. He opened his eyes and took a shaky breath. It was indeed a cave. He shivered violently. He began to rub his arms in quiet defiant of his surroundings.
"Am I dead?" He questioned the dark cave. He looked for the hands in the shadows, hoping to confront or meet their owner. Dagonet hoped Arthur and the rest of the knights had retreated. He was dead, or near dead, and he wished his sacrifice to be remembered at least by their lives being spared, for one night.
"That is for you to decide," replied a voice in the shadows. Dagonet turned towards it, curious and afraid.
The hands came out of the half-light and into the dim light below. Or was that the source of the light, those hands?
They seemed to shine with a blue light, like the tattoos of the Britons. In them, they held his sword. A woman, pale and blue and shimmering as her hands had first appeared stood before him. But her eyes, they were as the stars. As she moved towards him offering the hilt of his sword, the blade seemed to turn a golden hue, and her features became less brilliant and more homely. This unearthly creature had transformed his sword into something like herself. Dagonet decided it was the harsh water and the cold that was addling his brain. And yet, those hands still held his sword, the hands of the lady of this lake.
"Life or death?" asked the lady.
He looked at her, bewildered. She offered the sword once more.
"Will you do the tasks I would give you?"
Dagonet searched her face for some hint of malice and found none. Not even a whisper. Here was a foreigner beyond all measure afforded to him with no authority but the blue gleam of her hands. Yet, in his heart he knew he could learn to trust such a creature. In time.
He took the hilt of his sword and held it aloft, watching the gilded hues glisten. He felt warmth coarse down through his fingers, a blazing hand of cold, unearthly glory.