"Evening." Okay, not a lot more talkative.
"So, being young, I'm full of questions... though I'll probably be full of questions when I'm old, too, if I live that long."
"Well, I've got a couple questions. We found a druid who was skewered with a spear, who was wearing a torc. I'm thinking he might have been the head druid, and I was wondering if you knew if he was as you said dead, dead, or up and walking around and irritating you dead."
"Well, he hasn't been irritating me," she shrugged, stirring her cauldron.
"Basically what it boils down to, that actually is an old question. The new question is, so we have this lovely little castle that's half black and half white."
"Do you know anything about whoever is hanging out in the white half of the castle?"
"Nobody different is hanging out in the white half of the castle."
"Different, as in different from the people hanging out in the black half of the castle?"
"Do you know why it's half black and half white?"
"No, actually I don't," the trollwife told her. "I would have expected it to be all black by now."
"Emer made a reference to his former warleader, as if the skeletons that were so rude as to be raining down upon your roof the other night were being led by that particular individual."
"I believe his warleader up until that night was Caddwalyn."
"Do you know who his warleader is now?"
"No, I don't."
"Just to let you know, we asked him outright if he knew who ordered the killing of the exchequer, he said no. He was lying."
"Well, the odds are good it was him. I don't have any proof of it."
"I'm going to be probably reestablishing a temple here, and I just want to make sure that isn't going to in any way offend you?"
"Not unless you plan on building it in the swamp."
"Don't really plan on building it on the swamp," Meara assured her. "The swamp seems to be pretty much yours."
"Then we won't have any problem will we?"
"Just wanted to make sure. We found out that the darkness was caused because somebody had pinned the sun in place with an iron horseshoe nail."
"Seems like a particularly bad idea to me," she shook her head. "Couldn't have done something safe, like insulted it badly so it went and locked itself in a cave, or put a rock on it."
"No, they actually pinned it in place with a horseshoe nail."
"Hm. Sun might get annoyed at that."
"I'm just having this pictureI'm not sure if this is what the sun would dobut basically wherever that person goes for the rest of their life, it's never dark."
They talked for a while about the swamp and its dwellers, and Meara remembered to ask her what to do with the heart they'd taken from Snuffles. Gudrun told her it could be enchanted into a helmet that would prevent the wearer from suffering fear. It had a drawback, as these things so often do, having a strange effect on the wearer's emotions. As she put it, "If you're not really interested in falling in love, it's not really a problem."
After that, Gannon was finally up to strenuous activity again, and we set out to investigate the land to the north and east. The terrain was rough and paths were few, but we hacked our way north for four days until the orc trail disappeared underground. We didn't see any guards just at the moment, but the two hills before us were riddled with warren entrances.
"Maybe we should" Meara started.
"Go home!" Conner voted enthusiastically.
"That's a lot of warrens."
"Fortunately, milady, there are no warrens behind us...." We hadn't reached their sentry lines yet.
"This has answered the question I wanted answered; they've been here a while," I said. "This is not something new. So they're probably not going to sweep down over the valley." Not right now, at least. I'd been concerned that the ones we had freed might have been part of a migration, which would have more cause to be aggressive.
"It could be that their ten-generation plan to conquer the valley was merely put on hold by being taken over by the Faerie," Conner suggested.
"If they've kept this long, then they'll probably continue to keep and behave reasonably well. Not even I am going to ride in there on principle and just try to slaughter them," I grinned. There is a line between reckless daring and stupidity. Orcs could be unpredictable, but I figured that if they hadn't attacked by first snowfall, they probably wouldn't do so before spring. And even if they did try to attack the village, they would have to get through the swamp (or past the keep) to do so. "It's good to know that they're there." There was smoke coming from some of them. The tribe was easily large enough to support at least one smith.
"Considering their recent problems, they might be making iron weapons as fast as they can," Conner suggested.
We retreated with great care and struck off to the east for a couple of days, where we found a surprising nothing. The land was empty of goblins, so we learned nothing about the red-flag critters. It was also, somewhat alarmingly, empty of Fae in a place where they should quite clearly be.
"It doesn't look right," Conner said, worried. Meara tried a divination to locate them that returned only echoing silence.
"Maybe Wynn didn't want competition." I shrugged.
"This bothers me. This actually bothers me more than anything we've encountered so far," she told us.
"Oh." Conner, predictably, said, "Y'know, see, I was more bothered by the curtain of night, but call me crazy."
"You've got to understand, one of the reasons the legions stopped trying to invade Powys is because of the Fae. It's nothing without the Fae."
"I was more bothered when I almost made time go backward," Llweder opined.
"That one was bothersome, I remember that one," Conner nodded vigorously. "I mean, in the list of bothersome things.... I was bothered that he nearly got killed."
"Yeah, I was really bothered by that," Gannon seconded with feeling.
Meara tried a simpler request: Had the Fae been driven out? The answer was No. Did they leave voluntarily? No answer. She decided to try again when we returned to the shrine she'd built in the village.
As soon as we were in the neighborhood, "Can I try talking you guys one last time into going down the right-hand path of that rose maze and seeing if it goes anywhere?" Meara said hopefully.
"Why?!" Conner asked despairingly.
"Because there might actually be an equivalent to Wynn in the right-hand path, only his opposite."
"So one that doesn't want to gut us?"
"Right. Who wants to possibly even gut Wynn," she added in an attempt to persuade.
"Have we run into anyone yet who didn't want to gut us?"
| Top |
© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson et al