"Oh, I don't know, but you might consider using it if you did."
"Could we?" Llweder wondered, looking at me. "You can use a sword, but...."
"I know how to use a spear, but I'm not very good at it," Meara admitted. "We got a sword, a spear, and a hammer. I don't know about you, I'm not particularly good at weapons."
"Me neither," Gannon asserted.
"I'm decent with my dagger."
I shrugged. "It's really the only thing I do on this trip."
"Oh, and we've got a spiffy keen banner for when we decide to kick the door in and say youse all dies.'"
"I think Dad would prefer if we said something a little more eloquent, just for the family history...."
"That's the stuff you make up for the bards later. Have you ever noticed that the bards aren't at the forefront of the battle?"
"Not that I have anything against bards."
We described the weapons to Gudrun in some detail.
"It's such a nice forge," Meara sighed.
"Maybe you could make yourself a dagger," I suggested. Not one that channeled Balor's hunger or anything like that, of course.
"I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking, not right now.'"
"Something more your size."
"So you're telling me you've got weapons you can't use?"
"Pretty much. Well, I know how to use a spear...."
"As do I," I shrugged.
"But spears are hard, very hard. Okay, let me rephrase this, my mother made me promise to never admit to anybody that I actually know how to use the thing. She's a priestess to Morrigan."
"She has certain standards?"
"Yeah, and I don't meet any of them. When I came out of the womb she looked at me, turned to my father and went, Yours!'"
Gudrun sat back in her chair and looked at us. "Well, if you don't want them, I suppose I could arrange a trade."
Llweder made an interested noise. Meara checked to see if Brigid was hammering on the back door of her mind, but if there was, she couldn't be heard here in Hel's territory.
"Perhaps we might, if we're not offending any of the gods by doing so," she said cautiously.
"I don't see as you would be."
"You should really take the sword, my lady."
"I was planning on doing that." No sense in getting rid of that.
"I don't have a lot of use for a hammer, but I could find uses for a spear," Gudrun told us.
"Would any of them be sticking them into Wynn's heart?" Meara paused. "Sorry, I'm getting fixated... all right, I'm better now."
"Focus. Or unfocus, as the case may be," I suggested.
"Yes. What would you be willing to trade for it?"
"There's a lot of things I would be willing to trade for it. What I can trade for it... either a satchel or a shield. There's less difference than you might think, I'll tell you that," she added.
There followed a discussion on which would be the more useful item, and which of us would then wield it, since the latter in part dictated the former. Gudrun informed us that we didn't have to decide right away.
"You're welcome," Gudrun told her.
"Seagate, eh? Lovely."
"Nice place," I judged.
"Better than Deathsgate."
We took our leave and continued our discussion. Meara did an augury when we got back to her shrine. It seemed Brigid didn't mind if we traded things we couldn't use for things we could.
I opened the lead box to take a look at the sword. Each of the weapons had its proper sheath, which we hadn't noticed before. The blade was beautifully balanced for something that looked like molten metal. It wasn't an illusion, either; occasionally little bits of it flicked off, cooling rapidly into solidity. I tested it on one of the posts outside and found that it not only had a splendid edge, but tended to leave what it cut smoldering. It doesn't seem to have a name, which is just as well. I think I'll keep it.
Eventually wereally "they," since there were magical correspondences and expectations guiding the whole thing that I don't particularly understanddecided that Llweder would take the satchel. So that night we went back to the swamp.
"I see you brought the spear," Gudrun noted. "Who is going to be trading with me?"
"You're the one who wants the satchel," Meara looked at Llweder.
"All right, come along, then."
He grunted. They left the hut and walked upriver, under the waterfall. Down some stairs, and into a room with a foot of water on the floor and a collection of dimly seen items scattered about, some of them rotting. Gudrun hung the spear on the wall, took the satchel down from its hook and handed it to him.
It was very plain, with a large copper buckle on the side, made of some sort of hide, but not deer, pig, or cow (or human, for that matter). It felt heavy.
He noted the shield she had mentioned, hanging on the wall, wrapped in leather. He also noticed that the water in the room came from a small waterfall in the ceiling, which fell into a chalice, overflowed from there to the floor, and then out of the room. This, he thought, explained a lot about the swamp. Gudrun led him back out.
"I would appreciate if you would not experiment with that until you have left the swamp. Or at least me," she added.
"All set?" I asked as they reappeared.
"Yes. Let's go someplace private and pull stuff out of it."
"Is this something that we should be outside of the village when we first open it up?" Meara asked.
"Probably a good idea," she allowed.
We went up to one of the watchtowers, which seemed safely out of the way.
"Before the witch combusts," I sighed.
Llweder opened it. Nothing happened immediately. He looked it. It appeared empty. He reached in and found some pockets. He reached into one and pulled out a handful of the north wind. Put that one back right quickly. Another pocket held ale, some roast goat's meat, and cheese, another a piece of the sunrise. There were more pockets.
The following morning we went to look at the Keep. Very early; I wanted to see when the torches stopped their activity.
"Hey, Artos, can we borrow a ladder?"
"Sure," he replied, puzzled.
"You wouldn't know where the sea serpent likes to bask the most to tell riddles?" Meara asked.
"He doesn't really bask. Usually find him floating about four miles out."
"Want to go for a swim?" I inquired.
"Actually, I was thinking of going out on the fishing fleet one day."
"Try it, it's fun!"
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© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson et al