The Fell Gard Codices


Diccon stood behind Gryselde as the inn-girls brought the table out front of the building, and watched as the sorine got up on the table before him. He took a deep breathe, staring at her arse. Half of him wanted to go find a book and sit in the forest and read, laughing. The other half of him wanted to tear her robe off and fuck her till she cried for mercy.

(Which, if she did, he would stop. He wasn’t a cruel man.)

He listened with half an ear as she began going through what they knew, what they’d guessed, and what they’d planned to do. He was happy enough. He was going with her.

She’d argued with him about it, when they’d begun dividing up into two groups, there in the inn-room, after the little prophet had burst in on them. “I’m going with the group on this court,” she said. “If you feel you must keep company with one group or another, you would be of more use with the band that will go to the nineteenth court. If you find your old mates —”

“They’ll kill me,” he’d said matter-of-factly. “That’s the sort of man Conradin is. He’d never trust me.” It was probably true, Diccon reflected, watching Gryselde speak.

“You know the dungeon,” she’d said.

“Not really,” he’d told her. “As I said, we were new in this area. I know this part of the court below is more unshaped rock than the area here; that’s about all.”

She’d stared at him. “Is this your campaign to show me your way of life?”

I’d show you more than that, if I could, he’d thought. Aloud, he’d said, “I realise now that it’s the nature of a monastic to be fated, whatever you may think. I’m halfway there.”

“I’m a mendicant,” she’d said.

“If you like,” he’d said.

She’d given in. She’s strong-willed, he thought, but I can get around her. That’s a victory. Of course, she hadn’t let him savour it. “You’d best come along, then,” she’d said. “We’ll be better able to watch over you.” Put it how you’d like; he would go with her.

What she’d done next had surprised him. She’d suggested a new way to divide up the groups. So she was going on the nineteenth court. Conradin’s court.

He thought of her white limbs, wrapped around him. Her smooth precise movements, as he drove inside her. Just imagining it last night on his own had been sweet enough. What would the real thing be like?

He’d find out. He knew it.

Or, possibly, he’d die. One of the two. But then that was the nature of life; that was the nature of the dungeon. Hazard all to gain all. Lose all, and still you had the sweetness of the risk.

The things I do to get laid, he thought.

Of course he would go with her onto the nineteenth court. He wanted to be with her.

He stared at her arse, almost lost beneath her robes, as she asked if anyone in the crowd before her wished to volunteer to go into the dungeon with them. Diccon was surprised to find how many people were foolish enough to come forward.


Scholastica thought the outer-world monastic was an asshole, and listened with half an ear as the monastic told them what was going to happen.

Sybil had gone to whisper with Alkahest. Scholastica watched her go from there to whisper some more with Spyrling, and come away sadder. They were all assholes, she thought, not for the first time. Alkahest was a royal asshole, so you expect that. Sybil was a smart asshole who could act like a real cunt when she wanted to. Scholastica approved. And Spyrling — he didn’t even realise what an asshole he was, that was how much of an asshole he was.

The sorine finished talking and got down from her table. A bunch of people began to crowd around her. Scholastica ducked, twisted, and she was in the middle of things. Sybil was there before her. “I’m with Alkahest,” Sybil said. Simple as that. Scholastica thought that was good. If the sorine didn’t like it, fuck her.

“Are you sure that’s wise?” asked the sorine.

“It’s clever, which is better!” said Sybil. “I still have my charm in my head — and you’ll need somebody to explain to you the wizardry you’ll find!”

“She’s right,” murmured the man behind the sorine. Diccon. What an asshole he was, staring at the sorine’s rear end the whole time she’d been talking. “I think the other wizards have spent their spells already.”

“You have to let me go!” said Sybil.

“Do I?” asked Gryselde.

“We all swore to protect her,” said Sybil. “I think I can do a better job than some knight sticking her out in front of a dozen hob-goblins!”

Gryselde nodded. Scholastica wondered what was going on. Sybil was almost off her head. Of course they were going to go with Alkahest. There was no doubt of that. So why was she being —

Oh, thought Scholastica. Of course. Spyrling wasn’t there with them. It looked like he meant what he’d said, about his other oath having priority. What an asshole, thought Scholastica. She had her oaths, too. Sometimes they were difficult. So she broke them.

(Of course, there were a whole set of strictures laid down for her and the other monastics to follow, just so they’d have rules to break when they needed to. That was the nature of being a follower of an archdevil. They were tricky, and all about teaching those in their service to do bad things.)

“All right,” said Gryselde. “It is true we have no other wizard.” She sighed. What a hypocritical asshole, thought Scholastica. “Alkahest will be on this court. The task of her, and her group, is to try to find a way around the hob-goblins who are battling the dwarves.”

“I know,” said Sybil. “I heard you. Just … let me know when you want to go.”

She stumbled away. Scholastica stepped forward, in front of the white-haired prophet with the iron mace. “I’m going too,” she said. “Ask Alkahest about it.”

So that was that. And if the sorine didn’t like it, she could go … do something filthy, whatever. Scholastica didn’t even care enough to think it.

Sigwarynye’s stones, she thought, blaspheming against her devil as she had been taught, what an asshole.

She wasn’t entirely sure at that point who she was talking about.


“You’re going, then?” asked William.

“I’ll be back,” said Enheduanna. “You’ll see.”

“I believe you,” he told her. “It’s just —”

“Just what?” she asked. He sighed. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand, he suspected. She seemed to be waiting to hear from him what he hadn’t even decided himself he felt.

“We’ve just been through — so much,” he said. “I wish … Enheduanna, I hardly even understand … I can make magic, now. And I can … sometimes, when I touch the strings … I can … I can … I can make people listen, as they’ve never listened before.”

“As the dragon,” she said.

He nodded. “Jeroen Halfjack told me it would be like that,” he said. “He knew I’d be able to do … what I did … on command. And then … how do I do it, Enheduanna? How does the music make light?”

“It’s because you’re a true bard,” she said.

“And a fool,” William said. “What the dragon said to you —”

Now she shook her head, looked away. “No,” she said. “Not now. I have to … I must think on this.”

“Enheduanna,” William said. “I want … I want to go with you.”

She smiled, distantly. “You heard Gryselde,” she said. “What magic you have, you’ve used for a time.”

“That wasn’t Gryselde, that was Tilde,” he reminded her. “And how should she know? Whatever it is I do, it’s not what she does. And as for that orc —”

Enheduanna shook her head. “Don’t remind me,” she muttered. “Sooner or later … there’ll be a death over it.” She set her bow over her shoulder, and looked back to Gryselde, who was surrounded by a knot of people arguing with her. “William,” she said softly. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” he said. “But I have no idea what’s going to happen. To you. To me.”

She nodded, not looking at him. “That’s life,” she said. “We must live it quickly, when we are apart.” She turned, and smiled at him, that smile that like a silver knife at midwinter chilled his blood and touched his heart: “When we are together,” she said, “then we can be slow.”

She bent down to him and he held her. “I thought you were dead,” he said, his cheek against hers. He realised he was weeping.

“If I die,” she said, “I promise I’ll come back. That’s what we do.” She pulled back and smiled at him.

Yes, he thought suddenly. That is the nature of your kind. Isn’t it? To return from death.

He felt a moment of disquiet, before he managed to return her smile.


The knight cleared his throat. Ulric smiled. The man was young. “Your pardon,” said the knight with a nod. “Achard of the White Rook. I want to go with you. Either of your groups. I’m a fighting man — well, truth be told, I’m a knight.” He nodded again. “It’s my devoir to protect others.”

It was well said. Ulric wondered if he had ever been that young. Then he wondered when he had started to feel old.

“A knight,” said Gryselde. “One of John’s people, are you not?”

“I am,” he said. The sorine nodded.

“You can come with us, then,” she said. “Do you have weapons?”

“I have a sword and a shield, from the folk at this inn,” said Achard. “It’ll do for a start.”

“Very well,” said Gryselde.

“And me?” asked Ulric, smiling.

But Gryselde paused, then shook her head. “I’m sorry, Ulric,” she said. “You know that I value this offer. But tell me truly: have you any more healing grace within you?”

“I have never had healing grace,” he said. “It came, all of it, from Urthona. From the imagination of all mortal kind.” He laughed. “Besides,” he added, “you may have need of a mace.”

“Maybe,” the sorine said. “But …”

Ulric saw it, then. How it would seem to her. “But there are younger men,” said the old prophet. “Aren’t there? Who do not have a bad leg to slow them.”

“Ulric,” said the sorine. There was a trace of something desperate in her voice.

“You’re right,” he said. “You’re right, in this, as in everything. Do you understand? In everything, Gryselde.” He found he was smiling.

“Ulric,” said Gryselde. “Do you — this is dangerous, and —”

He laughed. “Must I say it again? You’re right.”

Gryselde stared at him.

“I would understand you better if you hated me,” she said.

He bowed his head. “I have spent too much time learning how not to hate,” he said softly. “I would not like to think it were wasted effort.”


Paradox ran through the woods. He had nowhere he was running to. Just away.

He knew there was no need for it. He was in no danger. If he didn’t want to go with the others — and he didn’t! — then he didn’t have to. Surely everyone understood. Surely.

Except him. He didn’t.

No; he understood enough. Or too much. He understood fear, now. How did they stand it? Being so … contingent. A single moment of bad luck, and you were gone, erased, your soul … where did it go?

He didn’t remember. He thought he had been happy once, before, outside of the world. But where? What had it been like?

He came to the shore of the lake. By the waters of Fell Gard he sat down and wept.


Kate didn’t think it was fair. “But I was the one who found Pauabu,” she pointed out to the sorine. “You should let me go with you to find the rest of the hob-goblins.”

“Had I been with you, I would not have let you go into the city,” said Gryselde. “We are going to terrible danger. I cannot let you come with us.”

“I’m a princess,” said Kate. The sorine gave her a level stare. Well, she hadn’t thought it would work, but it was worth trying. It was funny, how being a princess sometimes meant you got everything and then sometimes didn’t seem to matter at all, because you were still just a little girl.

Except she wasn’t. “I can help,” she said. “I can fight.”

Gryselde sighed. “Then you can fight here, if it comes to that,” she said. “Kate, you must speak to Robyn and to her brother … you must find out what the frightjack was doing to them, and what he was doing in that city.”

“Pauabu,” she said. “It’s called Pauabu.” Gryselde nodded.

“We’re going out into the dungeon to gain knowledge,” she said. “You can gain knowledge for us here, with them. And you’re the only one who can. Do you see?”

Kate thought about it, and nodded. “I guess.”

“We want to go too,” said another voice. Kate looked up. It was a woman she didn’t know.

“You … I’m sorry, I don’t know you,” said Gryselde. “You were at the north … you were with the outlaws, weren’t you?”

“My name is Giliane of the County Foxwell,” she said. “We want to do our part.”

Gryselde spread her hands. “I’m sorry,” she said. “There were more people prepared to go with us into Fell Gard than I had expected. There is no place.”

“We can fight,” said one of the men with her. “As you said, we fought — well, just over there.” He nodded to the northern cave mouth. Gryselde nodded.

“You may be needed to fight again,” she said, and sighed. “I hope not. But it may come.”

One of the other women knelt to Kate. “Did you say you were a princess?” she asked.

“I was,” said Kate. “I don’t know what I am now. I guess. I guess I’m a princess.”

The other woman spat at her. “That for princesses!” she shouted.

“Constance!” shouted Giliane. One of the men went to grab her, and she whirled away, drawing a knife. Kate was puzzled. She remembered that spitting was how mortals showed displeasure. Once, it would have been bad to be spat on, she thought. Now it was just an odd thing mortals did.

The adults were all shouting at each other now. Kate sighed, like Gryselde, and went off to find Robyn, rubbing spittle away from the side of her face.


Bliss waited as long as he felt it was right. He nodded to Friend, and went to the speak to the black-wrapped mortal. “I must go with you,” he said to her in Ibia. She said something back. Another mortal, a male, came over to them. Bliss would have liked to be able to tell them apart, but he had not yet learned the proper markers for their kind. The wrappings they wore around them made for good clues, but even those were sometimes indistinguishable. To the other mortal, Bliss repeated “I must go with you.”

The male mortal spoke to the female, and returned: “Why should you be coming?”

Bliss nodded. The mortals seemed to like it if you moved when you had no need of moving. “Our kind are enslaved by the hob-goblins,” he said. He was uncomfortable speaking. Speaking was not natural. Exposing oneself to another creature was not natural. And yet it had to be done.

The mortals conferred, and the male said “Why does murinean care for other rats?”

Bliss felt annoyance. “They are our kind,” he said. The mortals conferred again.

“There is no place,” said the male.

Bliss shook his head. He looked at Friend. Friend, Cat’s-Friend, Bliss’ own friend for all the years of his life, nodded. Bliss thought it was a risk, but shrugged. He said: “We are from Pauabu.”

The mortal stood still, blinking. Bliss thought that perhaps that meant that he was thinking. Then he shook his head and spoke again with the female. Bliss waited.

The female seemed upset. Unlike most mortals she did not express it through movement or a loud voice. She was almost, as they would say, murinean in the way she moved without moving. The male said, “Why did not you told us?”

“It was not needed,” said Bliss. “We do not know what you need to know. We were slaves. We would have been eaten. We fled. Now we are telling you this.” The male spoke quickly with the female. The female walked away, shaking her head. She came back, and spoke to the male.

The male said, “You can come with us. You must swear to tell all you know. Answer what we ask.”

Bliss said, “I am ready now to talk.”

It was not entirely true. Speech was not natural. But it seemed that they had reached a place where it was needed. He looked to Cat’s-Friend.

“You alone,” said the male. “You only with us.”

Away from kind. Well, it was as he had expected.

He nodded. “I will talk,” he said. “As you need it.”


“Why am I always the one left in charge?” grumbled Ulixa.

“So far you’ve done a good job,” said Gryselde.

Ulixa sighed. “Don’t say that,” she said. “I’ll start having to let people get killed just so I don’t have to put up with this. — Did I just sigh? I did. Look what you’re doing to me.”

They were at the crossroads. Gryselde was about to head eastward with Diccon, Hwitwic, Gral, Aura (who refused to be separated from her liege), Ygerna (who insisted on going out again into the dungeon to help others), the murinean, and that knight, Achard. They’d make for the Abyss of Stairs, and then try to find a stairway down and back to the west. Also nearby was the group who would head northward, to try and find a way around the goblins and get to the dwarves: Anselm, Alkahest, Scholastica, Sybil, Amanos, Geoffrey, Monoloke, and Enheduanna. Ulixa thought if it had been her deciding these things, she would have found a spot for Ulric. But, on the whole, she was quite glad it wasn’t up to her.

A few others were with them. William, holding Enehduanna again and whispering to her before they left. Yune, smiling with seeming aimlessness at Alkahest and Gral. Wymarc, Elous, and Theda, laughing with Diccon. Lina, smirking to herself. John of the Inner Book, who was both perfectly reserved and yet who also drew the eye as much as anyone Ulixa had ever met. Of course there was her own bodyguard, the corvina. Achard saluted John, who made the Sign of Oak. Gryselde clasped Ulixa’s hand.

And then that was it, and with no further ceremony the two groups went on their way.

“Well,” said Ulixa. She looked at Lina. “Should we discuss how to defend the cave?”

Lina smirked at her. “The agreement your sorine had with Sir Hugh is that you will defend the cave. With your lives. Well, go ahead, Morien. Defend!” She gave a mocking bow, and strode off toward the manor house.

“Yune?” Ulixa said. “Do you have any ideas?”

The dwarf shook his head. “I’m no fighter, I’m afraid,” he said. “Simply a clockmaster.” He put his hands behind his back, and paced off.

“William?” she asked. The singer threw up his hands.

I don’t know, Ulixa,” he said. He looked back to the inn. “That Alexander — what’s he doing here?”

“Being a priest, I expect,” she said. William nodded, as if he hadn’t heard her tone.

“Ulixa,” he said, “there are moments with you — with so many of these folk — I do forget you are not a follower of Ossian. And then there are times … ah, what’s there to say?”

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, what is there?” She took a step away, then looked back. “Has anyone seen Paradox?” she asked.

No. None of them had. When had any of them last seen him? After the dragons had left? John of the Inner Book stepped forward. “If you will,” he said. “You were asking about plans for the defense of the town. Some of my people are trained warriors. They will have ideas. We could see to this matter.”

“I suppose you could,” said Ulixa, thinking to herself, now why do I suddenly not trust this man? She sighed, again. “Is the caladrius still around? Do we know that?”

“Oh, I can’t say where it’s gone, my dear,” said Wymarc. “But if it’s healing power you’re after — I’ve heard it from a fellow I was friendly with, when the dragons left — one of the innfolk’s a healer.”

“Friendly?” asked Theda.

“Wymarc’s very friendly,” said Elous gravely.

“But no-one at the inn can heal,” said Theda. “I know Peg and her family. They’re none of them prophets.”

“Oh, I don’t mean them,” said Wymarc. “One of the guests, there. Healed Amanos during the big fight, that’s what he said.”

“Wait,” said Ulixa. “There’s secretly a priest — wait, that would mean —” A veilpriestess? she thought. Oh no. Oh no, not on top of everything else.

She gave a strangled noise from deep in her throat. The others looked at her, surprised. Concerned. Ulixa looked to the corvina. “I guess at least you don’t have any bad news,” she said.

The corvina opened her mouth and shrieked. “Death,” she croaked, rough but clear. “De-eth.

Ulixa nodded. She sighed again. “Of course,” she said. “Why would I ever doubt it?”


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