"Evidently I simply didn't have enough bouquets last night," she muttered, asked again, "Both sides?"
"That's what he said. We can take him at his word, I suppose...."
"Well there are no Fae there, so I suppose we can take him at his word, but that's a tad unusual. I have to do some research to see if it's ever happened before."
"Apparently the guy's crazy, even for an Unseelie Fae."
The closer we grew to the capital, the more aggressively cheerful everything became, even the occasional light dusting of snow as we found ourselves in early November. Festive decorations brightened the towns further; there were no unemployed entertainers to be found; and the amount of food on tables approached scandalous as everyone got ready for the season's celebrations.
"So, my lady, can I ask you a question?" Meara asked.
"Do you guys have a spare garrett in that heap of stone?"
"I think we could probably find some space," I assured her dryly.
"And what color flames do you want on your Flame Coat?" She's still working on the ring. "Gold, perhaps? I think gold would look nice, but we could go with red. I don't think I'm good enough to do a sparkly."
"I think red," I decided. It'll look nice against Griffon.
In the city we went our separate ways for a time. Llweder prospected for mistletoe he could harvest come the Solstice, when its value would be greatest, and reported on the summer's deeds to the rest of the druidic community, particularly the ogham "libraries." Their reactions were mixed; excited by the opportunity, but wary of the danger, and just as happy to let Llweder blaze the way, as he told them his intention to return the next year.
Meara stopped by the temple and asked to speak to the master of the archives. She was directed down a floor, around a corner, past some odd-looking sculpture, and found herself in a library. The master was sitting near the door, reading.
"Hi," she addressed the ancient man.
"Here's an account," she thrust a sheaf of paper at him. "You know the circle a little bit further up north where Llwys killed Balor?"
"Not specifically...." He looked a bit taken aback, blinking his weak eyes.
"There's a map there. It would probably be best if this didn't get forgotten again. Anyway, someone's trying to dig the man up."
"Oh," he said in a slightly smaller voice.
"Here's my account."
"Thank... you." This time he accepted the paper, still clearly puzzled.
"I was wondering, not being overly familiar with this temple, as it is much larger than the abbey I'm from, who would be the best person for me to make this report to? And wow, is that actually a copy of!oh, sorry."
"Yes, and I don't know... how about your abbot?"
"Oh yes, of course of course, however my abbot is on the other side of the country in Londinium, and I thought perhaps that since this is on your side of the country and technically Rutland is the capital, that perhaps somebody here might actually need to know what's going on." She could almost hear him thinking Need? Probably. Want? No!
"Where will be you be staying?" he asked in defeat.
"At the castle. I believe that they have a spare garrett or two."
"Excellent. Will you be presenting a report on this to Their Majesties?"
"Excellent," he repeated. "We'll have a representative there."
"Thank you. What's the protocol for coming and studying?"
He seemed momentarily suspicious of this new, easier topic. "Oh, don't take anything out of the room. Don't light anything on fire in the room."
"That's harder," she admitted.
"No summoning in the stacks."
"I can probably manage that. Brigid bless." She paused for a moment on her way out to listen with satisfaction to the thud as he fainted.
Gannon checked in at the Accountants Guild office in the castle, where he was relieved of accumulated paperwork in exchange for a stack of news briefs and other memoranda. There was nothing in particular waiting for him. His father was glad to see him alive. His mother must have been glad to see him alive or she wouldn't have missed with that throwing knife.
My first duty, of course, was to let my parents know that I had returned. Meara wanted to be present to give her opinion on events, and I figured it would save time later to get it all over at once. We had been spotted coming in to town, and my room had been aired out. I was told that my parents were in the Green Solar, on the northern side of the castle. I stopped a servant on the way to see about getting Meara a place to stay, and a page to show her around until she learned her way around the place.
Their Majesties were very conspicuously not occupying a bower. I reflected on what a long winter it was likely to be.
"Welcome back!" my mother exclaimed with a bruising hug. "So where did you go?"
"Well, where to begin... We went up to Caer Myrrthin," I started.
"Where?" my father said blankly.
I paused, blinked a few times, stammered for a second. "It's up north a ways on the coast. We were looking for that missing accountant?" It occurred to me belatedly that neither of them had ever mentioned the place by name; we had gotten his itinerary from the Accountants Guild records.
"Okay, um. There's a keep called Caer Myrrthin," I started again. "It's where the accountant disappeared."
"And you're absolutely positive this is inside Powys?"
"That's one of the interesting things about it. It doesn't seem to be so, but in a kind of strange way that... oh, this is Meara," I introduced; she had been lurking in the background until the initial greeting was done. "She's a priestess of Brigid."
"Pleased to meet you," my father told her.
"She might be able to better explain that part. It doesn't seem to be in Powys. I mean, it's contiguous with Powys, but... there's something wrong."
"They pay their taxes," Meara put in. "They're supposed to be in Powys."
"They did pay their taxes. We found the accountant," I added. "He was dead, but we found him."
"Okay. Who killed him?" he asked.
"We don't know."
"We have a good idea," Meara muttered out of one corner of her mouth.
Maybe, but we didn't have any proof. I went on, "We're not even sure what killed him, but it was apparently a human or Fae agency, since it very carefully buried him and his horse afterwards and didn't rob them at all."
"Never a good thing to let people kill your tax collectors," my father observed calmly.
"Caer Myrrthin has a lot of strange things about it."
"My lady, can I ask a question?" Meara asked. "Did you get the message we sent?"
| Top |
© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson et al