"There have always been tunnels there."
"Yeah, but I would think that an iron mine is the last place a Sidhe would want to go, period."
"Which means that by the time he got down to the bottom, he was probably a little over the edge from pain," Meara noted.
Gudrun shrugged. "I wouldn't have considered myself making a weapon to use as a channel for Balor's hunger."
"No, because you're not stupid," I said.
"Well, not that sort of stupid."
"So Emer has Balor, and he's got the sword." Lovely.
"I don't know if Emer has Balor," Meara put in. "I think Emer's working for Balor, or is being taken over by Balor, I think Emer's new warleader has something to do with Balor. Can I say his name six more times in the conversation?"
"Actually, you're wrong on that," Gudrun informed us. "Emer does have Balor."
"Oh, Emer does have Balor? I know, the big huge iron thing, but...."
"Yeah. He dragged him out."
"I know. But beforehand?"
"For being taken over by Balor, I'm nominating Wynn myself," the trollwife told us. "I still don't know exactly what Emer's doing."
"I can describe his sword and crown and ring for you."
"If you would."
Gudrun consulted her goddess. "I can't tell you anything about the sword, although from what you mention the design seems a little more stable than Wynn's."
"It doesn't have sharp pointy sticky things all over it." I was in favor.
"You shouldn't necessarily look down on it for that," she informed me.
"Oh, I don't!" I don't really want to be close enough to the thing to look down on it.
"You can do very nice work with sacrifice magic that you accept willingly."
"I'm sure. He could also be deranged."
"That's also a possibility. The crown is rulership, the ring is power, I can't tell you much more than that without having more. It's a dark power in the ring. The crown is not a pleasant rulership."
"And somehow he's managed to divorce this land from Powys," Meara told her.
"Yes. It's not really Powys here."
"You don't really notice until you go back over the border," I told her.
"Really. That's not right," she observed.
"Particularly given the fact that this place is more Powyian than anyplace I've ever been," Meara observed.
"Unfortunately, that's all I can really tell you about those."
"I would love to know what Emer's thinking," I murmured.
"I wouldn't," the witch said promptly. "I'd love to know what he's up to, but I don't want to know what he's thinking at all."
"I don't know, but he's much more in control than Wynn is," Gudrun told us.
"We think we know what he's doing, I want to know why," I said.
"What do you think he's doing?"
"The hammering and so forth, we assume he's busy setting Balor loose."
"Either chipping something out, or making something," Meara nodded.
"O possibly creating an army of undead," I added. "Or both."
"So actually, we have suppositions, we have no knowledge," she concluded. "Let's bust into that place during the day."
"I'd say the worst he can do is kill us, but I'd be inaccurate there," I noted. "Sure." It was beginning to look like there was no other way of getting information.
"It'll be a good scouting mission, and we have less of a chance of dying a hideous and terrible death during the day. Save that for when we actually try to take the castle down."
"True, your odds of dying a hideous and terrible death are significantly lower," Gudrun reassured us.
"Gudrun, do you know anything about the castle, what the castle used to be like?"
"All white stone."
"It's always been all white stone, before theblackness started?"
"It was all white," she confirmed.
"Oh, c'mon, tell me you're surprised." I gave her a look.
"I know, but it's a color that bothers me for a good reason."
"The fact that there's no white stone to be had anywhere near here?"
"And the fact that it's the color of"
"Death, yes." We knew that.
"It wasn't that white," Gudrun clarified. "It's Seagate Castle."
We looked at her in some confusion.
"To not use the language it was originally named in," she added, explaining nothing. "You should be familiar with the type, and heaven alone knows how you haven't inherited Deathsgate. Maybe they're saving it for a birthday. I'm sorry if I ruined your surprise,"
"That's okay," I told her, baffled.
"Still nonetheless, there's probably another way in the place," Meara was saying.
"Not that anyone's invaded Powys by seathat seain a very long time."
"Which might explain why it slipped out of knowledge in the records."
"Hm. Come to think of it, the last invaders through there were the humans."
"I don't suppose that there's a secret passage underneath the waterfall or anything like that that you know about?"
"Sure, do it the easy way," I sighed.
"There's a secret passage, it just doesn't go under the castle," she told us.
"Where does it go?"
"It goes down," she said with a tone of finality.
Meara of course had to ask, "Have you ever been down it?"
"Of course I've been down it."
"Is it down to your shrine? Would you be offended if we went down to go see what was there?"
"It's not down to my shrine. I'd probably have to keep you out. Just so you know."
"What's down there?"
"Someplace you're not supposed to go."
"She suffers a nigh-uncurable case of curiosity," I told the trollwife. "Don't mind her."
"I know; that's why I'm doing this. I don't work a nice god. Occasionally I have to...."
"We appreciate it."
"The fact that you're telling me that I shouldn't go down there, and that you would stop me, is enough to stop it," Meara assured her. "Let's just bust into the place during the day, see what's around, scout around, and then burn the place down or something, I don't know. I am fresh out of ideas. Conner's perpetually babbling about a plan."
"I take it you went down into the mine?" Gudrun asked us.
"Oh, yes, beautiful forge down there," Meara sighed. "It's gorgeous, it's...." She went on for a while.
"It is lovely. Find anything?" she asked significantly.
"Why, what would we find down there?" Meara did not do innocent well.
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© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson et al