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    Once Rhonwen was feeling up to receiving visitors, we dropped by.
    "Good day," she said, looking much better and far less desiccated.
    "Your Majesty," I greeted her with a proper bow.
    "And thank you for bringing that up," she growled. "Aren't you supposed to be in charge of this place?"
    "Me?" Not that it wouldn't be interesting, but the place seemed to have quite definitively picked her.
    "I think you should ask your dad for the place," Meara said.
    "It hasn't been discussed."
    "What can we do for you this morning?"
    "We've got this statue..." Meara began.
    After the discussion—during which Rhonwen made it clear that no, she didn't really want Emer's sword—yet again the whole village took a while off from their usual pursuits to haul the chained demigod back to his prison. We used the winch Emer had thoughtfully left there to lower him back down. It took a few days and a lot of work. Once Balor touched the bottom of the pool—which was deeper than we'd thought—the chains wrapped around him snaked out and attached themselves to the rings sunk into the bedrock.
    We sent a message back home, and after that seemed to be waiting for Wynn to find us. Meara worked on a real shrine for the village. I went out riding a lot, checked the boundaries to make sure there was nothing else we should know about out there. Gannon came with me, so he must have been bored. Griffon showed off his gaits (I think he was punishing me for neglecting him). We kept an eye out for goblins, but there was no sign of the little menaces. The orc warrens were quiet. The hills seemed to be all but deserted, the terrain inhospitable for human purposes.
    Right of Kings stayed in its box. Gudrun hadn't seen it before, so Meara and I lugged it out there for her to take a look at it.
    "It's certainly saner than the one Wynn made," she commented.
    "That's not hard," I replied.
    "Admittedly, I wouldn't suggest either of you taking it up."
    "It does seem to have a rather unpleasant personality."
    "So it's not just me," Meara said.
    "No, it's quite unpleasant."
    "It just doesn't like people," I sighed.
    "I'm thinking it's beyond my abilities to unbind the sword," Meara said.
    "Yeah, probably," the trollwife agreed.
    "So perhaps there's a room of weapons that are just too ugly to leave lying around in Rutland?"
    "We could add it to the collection, I suppose." I shrugged.
    "Otherwise, no matter where we leave it it's going to come back to haunt us. We might as well leave it someplace where it's got all sorts of other spooks to come back and haunt us with."
    "Somebody to keep it company?"
    "It might come and haunt somebody besides us."
    "I suppose. So does it actually do things to people?" I asked.
    "What, the sword? I assume you mean besides making them bleed?" Gudrun asked.
    "In and of itself, does it have an effect?"
    "Oh, yes."
    "O'erweening pride?" Meara suggested.
    "Well, o'erweening is an interesting word, and only if you already have the right to that pride as far as the sword is concerned."
    "I bet the sword is partially how he was able to slowly secede his territory from Powys, along with the crown and the ring—which shattered, by the way, as soon as he walked out of that coffin."
    "Some people just don't take rejection well."
    The sword went back in the box.
    "How the hell are we going to get this to Rutland?" I wondered suddenly.
    "I'm thinking a cart. You know, something with wheels, a nice base."
    "That's going to take forever."
    "Part of the trip is going to take a little bit longer, but it's not going to take forever once we hit the roads."
    "Maybe we could hire a boat."
    "I suppose we have to go right to Londinium?"
    "Did you have somewhere else you wanted to go?"
    "Did you take a close look at their boat? I'm sure it doesn't just simply go back and forth on the coast going, Œjust fishing!'"
    "Taking it to Rutland to have the king lock it up isn't necessarily a bad idea," Gudrun shrugged. "Have fun."
    At point we went back to check on Wynn's castle, but he remained not-home. Hunger was in a much worse mood now, perhaps due to Balor's reinterment; when we stepped into the room a gout of flame shot from the blade most of the way across the room. We closed the door hastily and went a different way.
    Meara rearranged a few more of his stones and wondered if we could get Conner to redo his entire wardrobe in white cloth.
    "I'm all in favor of psychological warfare, but that's a little over the top."
    "He doesn't have any cows, so I guess we'll take the horse."
    "You can take the horse." I'm not about to stoop to horse theft, no matter how annoying Wynn is. Besides, it's a Fae horse.
    "Would you like to come with us?" she asked it. "We're going to go gallivanting across some hill-sides."
    The horse looked at her silently; it was clearly thinking about it. We left the door open as we backed away (if it wanted to leave, that was different from stealing it); it remained standing quietly in its stall, pretending to be normal.
    On our way back I mentioned, "I'm not sure I understand your deep determination to fuck with this guy. He's unpleasant and all...."
    "You've got to understand, it's because he considers himself to be in charge."
    "Well, the fact that he's wrong is enough for me."
    "Yes, I know, but I have this overwhelming urge—and I'm really sorry, it's practically pathological—to just simply walk up to anybody that considers themselves to be in charge and go," she mimed poking someone. "And if I don't consider them to rightfully be in charge, such as the king and queen...."
    "You should have considered becoming a professional satirist, then. They get paid for that sort of thing."
    "I am. Well, I will be," she amended. "Once I get my fourth mark."
    "Good choice."
    When not thinking up ways to twist Wynn's tail, our bored priestess kept at her forging, though using iron from elsewhere now, since with Balor in it the iron from the pool had a distinctly unpleasant aftertaste, for lack of a better word. When not riding herd on her, I let Artos practice hitting me (not really, but that's more or less what practicing with him worked out to). No artistry there, but if I can learn to take a blow from him I figure I could take one from just about anybody, and I could use the practice dodging. Llweder continued spending time in the grove, learning what he could from it.
    In short, we waited, and prepared as best we could.     

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© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson et al