Not far from the king, perched on one of the braziers, Gannon and Conner saw a large, greasy-looking crow. It was staring at Gannon. Conner recognized it.
"What circumstances?" the ghost asked.
"The circumstances leading to the darkness surrounding this valley." Not to mention the fact that he was dead, but I wasn't sure if it would be considered rude to mention that directly.
"Wynn turned out the sun. Evil travels best away from it," he replied portentously. It crossed several of our minds to think that he would have reason to know about the latter.
"And Wynn would be...?" Maybe it was something about the valley's air; no one who lives here can volunteer information.
"Wynn is the one who has taken over the mines."
"I see. We encountered a number of Fae there last night, are they connected to this Wynn?"
"Tall, white hair, sword covered in dark fire."
"Oh yes. That was Wynn? I think he'll probably be rather irritated with me, then," I added half to myself. "I see. I don't mean to offend, of course, Your Majesty, but does this have anything to do with your continued presence here?""
"I'm not sure how you mean that question."
"We have it on reliable authority that you are in fact dead."
"I merely wish to know if your haunting of this castle is related to the darkness and Wynn's deeds."
Silence for a long moment. "Yes. I haven't managed to kill him yet."
"Ah. So was the battle the other night between your forces and his, then?"
"Between his forces and my previous warleaders."
"But not your current warleaders?" Meara asked.
"Of course not."
I glanced around at the indistinct figures watching us. "Ah." There was an uncomfortable silence while I tried to figure out how to ask my next question.
"My lady, perhaps we should inquire about the exchequer?" Meara suggested.
I had all but forgotten about him. "Several months ago, one of our royal exchequers vanished after visiting this valley."
"Oh?" Was that a touch of belligerence?
I realized that I was doing the same thing they all did, expecting people to answer questions on inference. It was catching. "We were sent to discover what had happened to him. Did he by any chance visit you, or do you know if he was within the darkness, perhaps investigating Wynn's activities?
"Not insofar as I know."
"Would we be correct in assuming that Wynn wants to release Balor?"
"Yes. You would be correct, as far as I know. That certainly seems to be his plan."
"Thank you. That clarifies the situation here."
"Always pleased to be of use to the Rhys." His spectral expression was of course unreadable.
"And you certainly have our gratitude for it." I think.
"Thank you, spirit. We shall do our best to put you at rest," Llweder told him formally.
Conner had a question. "Is that your crow?" he asked, pointing timidly.
"Yes," Emer told him.
"Why did itthe soul sucking out, thing, back outside the druid's grove, if that was your crow...."
"Soul sucking out? What soul sucking out?" the ghost inquired blandly.
"Making eye contact was... uncomfortable. I was just worried that I'd offended you, or something," he added quickly.
"Perhaps one day you'll grow into your power and become less frightened by mysteries."
"I suppose anything's possible," Conner allowed.
"I look forward to the day."
Meara had a last question. "Do you at whose command the exchequer was killed?"
"No," he lied.
"Thank you, my lord."
"Have we your permission to travel through your domain freely?" I added; it might be important.
"You are certainly welcome."
"Thank you. We will leave you to your... rest."
We departed with due caution. The gate slammed behind us. "Well, that was interesting," I said a bit inanely.
"I think we should burn the castle down," Meara muttered.
"Maybe on our way out. Nice guy. Hey, he didn't kill us."
"I got the feeling he didn't like me," Conner observed.
"He was remarkably civil to you," the priestess contradicted.
"So Wynn created this area of darkness to give cover for his attempts to dig out Balor?" Llweder gave one of his rare bursts of speech.
"Maybe," she replied. "He turned out the sun, and evil travels best away from it."
"So therefore, without the sun here, it makes it easier for evil to travel," Conner concluded. "Okay. I can't believe I'm about to say this, milady, you think that if Wynn were to die the sun might come back?"
"There seems to be a certain implication there," I said cautiously. "Or perhaps we'll just have to hold his feet in that pile of iron until he agrees to put it back."
"If he's here because he swore to kill Wynn, if someone else killed him, would the ghost stay around forever?"
No one had a sure answer for that. Emer was clearly involved in some dicey areas of magic that none of us had any direct experience with. As for it being his crow, Meara's suspicion that he was more likely its spectre might well have something to it. It was hard to guess how much of what he'd told us could be trusted, but I had a sudden hunch that Wynn had betrayed him.
"I'm just concerned that if you were to kill this Wynn, that he'd stay."
"Then we'd have to find a way to get rid of him," I shrugged. "Can't have him hanging around here all the time, it's not healthy." Not with the green fire and other nasty accoutrements, anyway. If he wants to haunt the place for the long term, he's going to have to be decent about it.
"We could also possibly see how he turned out the sun," Meara noted.
"Presumably we'll try to find that out before the whole killing part," Conner replied dryly.
"That's fine. Wynn means 'white,' you know," she added. "Means other things, too, but...."
"Now we can go follow the orcs," I announced cheerfully.
"Hey, want to go see where the center of all this darkness is? That's probably where Wynn turned out the sun," Meara suggested.
"You just want to go explore up that way, don't you?" Conner demanded. "You're just dying to drag me up there!"
"No, there's no dying involved in this at all. And actually you know I respect your independence as a fully grown adult, you don't have to come along," she smiled.
I stared at her in mild affront. "Yes he does."
"But just think of the potential, all the cool stuff you might miss," she pointed out. "Because quite frankly I can tell you if we find any real, real spiffy material components up there...."
"I have to do what she tells me," he sighed dolefully. "She's going to go, and no matter how many times you say 'you're an independent person' she's going to contradict that!"
"Yes, but she's not your liege yet, is she?"
| Top |
© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson et al