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The Fallen King

    It was a long ride back to Rutland, if only because Gannon and Meara spent the entire time teaching other languages. A couple of interesting things happened on the journey other than conjugation, though. First was that five days out of the village we all looked around and suddenly realized that we were back in Powys. Which was disturbing, because in theory we'd been in Powys the whole time.
    "What do you want to bet this runs to the edge of his charter?" Meara asked me.
    "Absolutely nothing, I'm not stupid."
    The second was Samhain. We were well within settled lands by then, and had taken shelter (with permission) in a farmer's barn. They hadn't offered us the main house, and we hadn't pressed; the Rhys tend to have a lot of dead to deal with.
    "So here's the deal," Meara began when we had settled in. "I have a minor bit of insanity I'd that I wish to engage in tonight."
    "Far be it from us to stop you," Gannon shrugged.
    "Right. So what I thought we could do is while I'm off engaging in my minor bit of insanity, we could ward the barn so only the right dead come by and talk to you, and if I come back in the morning you can congratulate me."
    Llweder grunted.
    "Unfortunately, I really actually couldn't recognize the speech pattern behind that grunt, so was that an agreement, a disagreement, a query...?"
    He grunted again, indicating that he didn't know any real warding spells.
    "I'm not actually going to be casting proper wards, but we're going to put wards up on the doors so that hopefully certain malefic forms will not enter this place."
    He agreed, and Gannon didn't object either, so the wizardly corps got down to work.
    "Of course, all things considered, the three of you aren't the ones I'm worried about," she added. "I'm worried about what might be after the princess of the name, here."
    "Please," I rolled my eyes. "Can't be getting worried about ghosts, we'd never be doing anything else."
    "It's not the ghosts, it's the Unseelie."
    "Oh, him. He's probably still smarting."
    "Oh no, I'm not worried about him, I'm worried about the whole Court."
    At that, I had to laugh. "If the whole Court decides to come after poor little old me, we're in some trouble."
    "They won't go through doors that have been properly warded."
    While she went off to do whatever it was she had in mind, the rest of us settled in for whatever the night would bring. A few family members showed up, including a couple of Gannon's grandparents; his grandfather seemed confused. One of Llweder's appeared and held a brief, grunted conversation. Connor was having a conversation with one of his own ancestors that mingled tailoring and spell theory without making much distinction between the two. No one noteworthy, and nothing unusual for a Powyian Samhain—at least not as far as the realm of the dead was concerned.
    The night also brought a high lord of the Unseelie Court knocking on our door. Or so one had to assume from the expensive wardrobe, ageless features and eyes full of starlight, while in the weed-grown yard behind him stamped something that was barely disguised as a horse, green flames licking from its nostrils. The Fae wore a fiery badge on which the flames really did flicker. For a member of the Court, he was remarkably short on ceremony, just asked if he could come inside.
    After a momentary hesitation I replied, "Why certainly, sir," giving the men a warning look as our guest swept into the barn sans the drama the Courts tend to go in for—no sudden gust of wind blew the candles out or made his cloak flare dramatically, no shooting stars provided backlighting. I offered him what hospitality we could and waited for him to say what had brought him. Conner and Gannon prudently kept their mouths shut.
    Eventually he said, "You've met a man calling himself Wynn, have you?"
    "I believe we have the gentleman's acquaintance," I replied guardedly.
    "Did you kill him?"
    "Not to my knowledge."
    "Pity. Correct that, if you would," he said in tones that didn't fall far short of an order.
    I thought about that for a moment. "And your interest in the matter, if I may ask?"
    "I want him dead," was the flat reply.
    "I had surmised that much."
    There was a pause before he told us, "He does have the distinction to be the only person to successfully kill off all members of both sides of a local Court."
    Llweder grunted, surprised.
    "What an interesting man," I murmured.
    "And I can't get there," our guest admitted.
    "So if you could do something about that, or kill him, your choice, I would find myself in your debt."
    "I see." We stared at each other for a while. Having no eyes, he won the contest quite easily.
    "If there's nothing else."
    "I don't believe there is," I allowed.
    "Good evening, then. Say hello to your father for me." He swept on out—again, without show—mounted his horse and rode away.
    We realized that the dead who had been visiting had vanished. No more appeared that night.
    "I like this not," Llweder intoned.
    "You like this not?" I retorted. "I'm a little bit miffed. I don't go around killing people because some Unseelie Sidhe walks in and asks me to; I'll kill him because I want to." After a moment of thought I added, "I guess it's nice to know that he's managed to piss off everyone." I noted that our visitor hadn't bothered to leave a name; presumably my father would know him.
    Meara in the meantime had gone out to the fields with thirteen bouquets of roses, wheat, violets, rosemary and thyme. Thirteen dead men appeared for her, unspeaking and Fae-beautiful except for the ragged death wounds they bore. They wore a crest of a white rose. Each of them collected a bouquet and departed, still in silence.
     "Anything fun and exciting happen while I was gone?" Meara asked when she got back at sunrise, staring at the door; the wards were still in place.
    I laughed. "Had an interesting little visitor."
    "An Unseelie Fae came to visit," Llweder told her. "We invited him in and he instructed us to kill Wynn."
    "What did this gentleman look like?"
    We described him, but she didn't know who he was either.
    "What did he say?"
    I shrugged. "He wants us to kill Wynn, because apparently he's managed to kill off both sides of the Court in the area around there."
    "And there's a reason why he hasn't just simply smote the bastard down?"
    "Apparently he can't get there."
    "Get where?"
    "Wherever Wynn is. I found that quite interesting," I added.
    "Both sides?" she asked.
    "Yes. Quite an accomplishment, I must say."

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© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson et al