The Fell Gard Codices


Enheduanna staggered forward, choking on the thick mist. Not mist, she thought. Thicker. A miasma. It dizzied her. She knew she had to get away, get out, or else collapse.

She kept upright, kept moving, unsure which way she was going. She could no longer feel north inside her. She did not know her way.

“Alkahest,” she shouted, or tried to shout. “Geoffrey. Amanos.” No answer came, but then she hardly even heard the shouts herself. It was as though they’d been lost in the mist, smothered in the white veils all about her.

This isn’t right, she told herself. I should not be so … lost. I am a huntress.

Huntress of what? Of mystery? Of love?

She thought of him. The Iron Elf. Whose name she did not know. Did not remember. What was it she felt, as she called his face to mind?

Was it love?

Was it what she felt for William?

She choked, and retched.

Why had she been so quick to throw herself to the mortal man? Yes; live quickly. It was true. And was it not said that the elf-folk, as though to make up for their short time of wakefulness above the earth, knew their loves in a moment; felt a sureness, a recognition?

What if it was not that alone? What if she had been trying to hide from herself the memories —

She stumbled and collapsed against a wall to her left. There seemed to be small dark shapes moving around her. The mist swirled.

I will take the memories of your parents, the Carnelian Dragon had said. Falcate. Had she hoped to hear something else? When she had offered her memories — what had she hoped the dragon would take? Not her parents, no.

The inconstancy of memory. How much would she not let herself remember? How much did she, unknown to herself, want herself to forget?

She stumbled on. This was no time for soul-searching.

And it was as if the mist, having blunted her sense of direction, turned her now against herself; turned her inside herself. William, she thought. She tried to picture him, his black hair, pale skin, the sound of his voice, her name as he said it —

She remembered the Iron Elf, in ages past. In the city where she had been given her name. “Never to die,” he had said. He had not been Iron, then.

She remembered that she had rejected him, had turned away to look out on that great hive of mortals —

She fell up against a door. Rough wood under her hands. She fumbled, seeking for a handle. If she could get through, then maybe on the other side, where the air was cleaner —

Something struck her on the back of her right knee. She gasped, and fell. Shadows moved in the mist. Something else clubbed her on the side of the head. She realised that Anselm had not healed her wholly.

Again she was struck, and again, and she saw not William’s face but the Iron Elf, disappointed, sad, and she wanted to reach out to him and beg forgiveness; so in the end her loss of consciousness came as a relief.


Sybil fell forward, and then to the side, and caught herself and trod several steps back. Which way was she going?

“Alkahest?” she cried. “Scholastica!”

There was no answer. She stumbled against the wall.

She was alone, uncertain. She always ended up alone. Think, she told herself. Think think think.

That was all she could trust, her brains. She couldn’t trust herself, only the intelligence she seemed to be gifted with through no act or skill or choice of her own.

She felt a door on her left hand. The way back to the gaming statues? she wondered. The air might be clear on the other side —

Where was Alkahest? The dwarven princess was her first responsibility.

I should save myself first, she thought. It was a cowardly thought. But logically she had to be safe before she would be able to save Alkahest. That was only sense.

She found the door-handle.

She remembered when Meninx and Etumon had brought her and Wort and Anapest (which was a stupid name for Ana to choose for herself, but she’d insisted) and Wayla to the estate of Minhyr. She wondered now how Meninx and Etumon, their fathers, their guardians, had managed three girls (as they had been, before Wayla had gone seeking a charm to make myself what I am as the note had said, and so became Wayland) — even if Wayla had been quiet and sad, how had two befuddled male scholars arbitrated the spats of two clever sisters? They had done what they could, and brought them all to Minhyr.

(This was not relevant, thought Sybil, opening the door, tripping on the threshold. Was it the mist that made her recall these things? Or was she so afraid she needed to think of something happy from the past?)

She remembered being led through the chambers of Minhyr’s estate; the dwarves at their posts in mail, or even full plate armour, steel head to toe. She remembered climbing to the top of the citadel, running up the stairs all the way, and looking out over the fields far beneath, seeing them shine, one set beside another, like some vast jeweled breastplate. (At the heart of Minhyr’s realm, you climbed a certain flight of stairs, that took you above the twelfth court. You found a kind of bubble of air between the twelfth and eleventh court, lit by an ætheric moss that shed a thick light like gold or honey over field after field; that was where Minhyr found the food for all her people. And at the centre of those fields was the citadel into which you had climbed, and from whose top you could look out over a square mile or more.) Minhyr’s estate was wealthy, and powerful, and in that citadel was more beauty than she had imagined — great bards and minstrels, gowns of fine cloth dyed the brightest colours she had ever seen, treasures of gold and silver and rich gemstones worked by the finest craftsmen of the dwarves — it was a castle of art, and therefore Meninx and Etumon had come to take their place within it, as scholars and wordsmiths; and Sybil too had a place there, for a time.

(Now Sybil was falling forward, unable to quite get her feet under her properly. It was dark. She realised the mist had glowed a little, either with its own magic light or else somehow conducting the light of the lanthorn. But there was no mist in that room before her.)

She remembered becoming friends with the princess — laughing and joking in the citadel’s galleries, looking down on the fields — and becoming friends too with  the princess’ treaty-bound bodyguard. Well, not friends, exactly, but Scholastica stopped telling her how she would kill her, and started telling her about the ways she’d kill everyone around them. She remembered meeting Spyrling among the fields, where he helped to make the crops yield. How the four of them had become a group, together. Listening to minstrels recite poetry. Watching the warriors spar in the practice-yard. Now and again studying with Alkahest under her tutors; most of what they taught she had already learned, from one of her absent-minded fathers, but it was fun being together. And she was always expected to be cleverer than anyone else, anyway, so for once knowing things didn’t alienate her from the friends around her.

She remembered the rumours about a new court. She remembered telling the three of them stories about the wars that had happened the last time a court had come to be, and how everything had turned upside-down.

It had all been her fault, really, that they had decided to run away.

She realised she was having real difficulty balancing, that she could not gather herself, could not keep herself from running on ahead.

It was her fault. Their running away. Their coming to a new court — they had almost been killed, and by a pack of nolls, for pity’s sake. Her fault. Why? Why had it seemed like a good idea? She was smarter than that. Why had she urged them on?

What really drove her?

All these memories and questions passed in her head in a few seconds, as she tried to gather her feet under her, where they stubbornly refused to go. Still she almost had her balance back —

And then she crashed into the table where the giants played their backgammon game. Her hands swung before her, scattering pieces and dice. She fell —

The darkness was lit by red fire. From where?  It was the eyes of the giants, that had begun to burn. Sybil saw them, saw their faces in the light of that fire. She saw them stand. And then turn their massy heads to stare straight at her.

Sybil screamed.


When the mist washed over them all Geoffrey threw out one hand to grab the hovering lanthorn, while the other reached out to grip Amanos by the wrist. The mist blinded them both and sent them reeling. Amanos crashed into a wall, then Geoffrey fell into her. Trying to recover he fell back across the hall, and she came slamming into him. The cuts he’d taken from the hob-goblins re-opened, and he roared but did not let go of her or the lanthorn.

They stumbled about, this way and that, holding onto each other and crying out for the rest of the group, getting no answer.

Geoffrey had a vision of himself fucking her, there in the hall, their armour thrown aside, covered in the mist. The heat of the dream surprised him. Her legs wrapped around him. The musk of her cunt, as he imagined it. That fixed stare of hers, driving into him as he thrust into her, she was gripping his hair, she gasped —

Later, damn it, he told himself. For now the thing to do was find the others. That meant getting out of the mist.

“We should stop,” she said in Darvartha. “Sit. Until the mist fades.”

Sit together. Lie together. Fuck. Her young body —

Stop it, he told himself. Later, when you can do something about it. He found himself not trusting himself. This wasn’t just wanting to fuck the girl. This was, this was — was it the mist?

She had sounded like she was a hundred miles away. It was like he’d heard her through his hand, through his grip on her wrist. “We can’t see anything,” he shouted. “Hear anything. An army could come at us unawares. We get out, we wait for the mist to diedown. Regather everyone.”

She didn’t say anything else. He wondered if she was dreaming something, in the mist.

Dreaming him, on top of her —

Stop it, he told himself. Tricky damn mist. Well, he’d been holding back his dreams all his life. He knew that now. Didn’t I come to Fell Gard so I didn’t have to? he asked himself. Yes. But to chase one dream meant not chasing others. He was old enough to know that. Right now he had to live, and kill, and then after that —

After that, he thought.

He stumbled into something waist high. A barrier. A stone rail. “What’s this?” he shouted.

“I’ll take it,” said Amanos. She reached around in front of him. He felt her against his side. “Along,” she said.

They went on, this way and then that. He thought he saw shapes, small shadows in the mist, but never close enough to catch. He didn’t dare let go of Amanos or the lanthorn, either way. And she was leading him along by the railing.

Until they came to a doorway where the mist was fading. “Ahead,” she said and he told her at the same moment. Through the arch was a hall about ten yards long, which led them to a room maybe ten yards by twenty. The mist was much thinner there. Geoffrey grunted, and went on into the room.

“Wait,” said Amanos. “We should go back for the others.”

“How do we find them?” he asked. “No. We wait for that to — gods!”

Four great black birds flew at them from an arch in the far corner. Geoffrey drew his sword as the things wheeled in toward them, cawing coarsely. They were crows, but half-shadow, overlarge. He swung his sword, driving two of them back. The others fluttered around Amanos’ head, as though trying to get at her eyes through her helmet. Geoffrey killed one near him, then another, as Amanos cut one on its wing. The birds shrieked and flew off through the other arch, back toward the mist.

Amanos stumbled forward, and caught herself against a wall, which opened before her. She fell through to the ground. Geoffrey laughed, and she cursed him as she got up: strings and shadows, which signified nothing to a man of Oak and Holly. “Well, you’ve found another chamber, brave explorer,” he said. “What have we here, eh?”

It was a square room, forty feet to a side, with a hall stretching away on the far wall. There were two bodies in it, creatures that weren’t mortal. “Hedgehog-things, urchins,” Geoffrey muttered. “But what killed them?” In the light of the lanthorn he could see they weren’t merely dead. One had been disemboweled. The other had its upper body missing. No, he thought. Not missing. Burned. Looking in the light of the lanthorn he could see the charred pile of ash; could see soot marks on the wall.

“We should wait in the other room, where we can watch the mist die,” Amanos said. “We’re lost. And battleweary.”

“Speak for yourself,” he said, striding into the room. “I want to see what’s coming.”

“You’re hurt worse than I am,” she said. “Anselm should have healed you, not your goblinman.”

“He did right,” said Geoffrey. He glared at her. The echo of her voice angered him. He wanted to see her, to stare at her thin face, the daintiness of her youth. “Take the buckethelm off,” he said. “Let me see you. Eye to eye.” She did; she was frowning. He grinned.

For a long moment they stared at each other, frozen, and in Geoffrey’s head again came the dreams from the mist.

Finally, when he had stared his fill and her grey eyes began to weary him, he turned and started toward the far hall. “Let’s at least see what we have before us,” he said, pushing the lanthorn ahead of him.

Until, as he neared the arch, a net of impossibly thin rope sprang up from the floor, catching him like a fish, pulling him off the ground to hang ten feet above the floor.

He roared as Amanos laughed. “And this is why we wait,” she told him.

“Damn you, woman!” he said. “Get me down!”

“Maybe,” she said, drawing a slow step closer. “Maybe I prefer you bound.” He did not like the smile that was starting across her face.

“Cut me free,” he growled.

“You have not always known your place, peasant,” she said. “Perhaps this will tame you.” He roared again, wordlessly.

Behind her, a door in the wall opened, and four skeletons danced their way through.


She remembered the crunch of little mouse bones. The pathetic squeak of something dying. She remembered laughing at it, and so laughed again.

Weakness was funny in other things. So long as you could laugh at them you weren’t weak yourself, was how she thought of it.

Scholastica stumbled back through the mist. She couldn’t quite keep her balance, which made her mad. She was a monastic of Sigwarynye. She ought to be able to fucking stand.

She tried to stop herself from tripping, to catch herself. She tried to remember her training.

She had been taken in from the dungeon. Her parents had been killed. She didn’t know who’d done it. Possibly by the nuns of Sigwarynye themselves; they were assholes enough to do it.

She had been taught by the nuns how to be brutal, how to hurt people. When you hurt people they rewarded you. You figured out the best ways. They would teach you, if you asked, though they’d hurt you, too. That was all right. It drove you to grow up and hurt them back. Oh she would be their greatest pupil, she would hurt them more than anyone.

You killed things, and you got in their good graces. Maybe they didn’t hurt you so much. You got to like killing things.

Scholastica wanted to kill something right there.

She stumbled into a shelf — no, a sword-rack. The weapons at the crossroads, she thought. All right. She knew where she was. She set a hand on the wall —

The wall opened. She fell forward.

Behind her she heard the wall close as she looked around. It was warm. There was a little ruddy light. A fire, behind a grate. A furnace. Then she saw a second light, beside it. A shadow passed before the furnace-light, like a bat, like a wing —

Scholastica realised what she was looking at.

Fuck me with a rusty sword, she thought. Not another one.

Then something crashed into the side of her head and the world and all the assholes in it just went away.


Monoloke felt the mist wash over him. He felt dizzy. He knew if he stayed on his feet he would wander, confused.

He let himself drop to his knees.

He had no need to prove his strength over the mist. That was for Geoffrey.

He stayed kneeling.

He remembered kneeling at that mortal ceremony. The Ring. He remembered listening, and the way the mortals’ voices rose together and fell. He remembered waiting and waiting and not seeing a god, as the old dwarf had warned him.

He remembered also, as the mist coiled around him, doing worship to Blæcalx. Those times when all his people had all gathered to feel Him smite them. One by one, to glory in His strength. What was a god, but that that was all strength? And, conversely, what was strength but godliness? Mortals understood this, so far as he could see. They knew how to kneel.

Monoloke remembered Blæcalx. He remembered the presence of the god, feeling the hammer of His fists driving him into the dirt. The taste of chalk.

The mortals did not seem to have that. Still it was clear to him from what he had seen that mortals were just like goblinkin in their love of power. What was not clear to him was why mortals seemed to want to pretend otherwise. Except perhaps it had to do with what Monoloke had learned from them: Seen gods were strong, but unseen gods were stronger.

Monoloke remembered the dream he’d had. Breaking stones to find shapes within them. Shapes to whom he was as a god. Monoloke wondered about that. Would he be invisible to them? Would he shape their eyes so that they could not see him? If he was as a god, then that was in his power.

If he was their creator … if he as a god was a creator … then the nature of deity was creation, and since he knew that godliness was strength, then creation was power. To make the new was the greatest strength.

His people were dead. His sire was dead. Mortals wept for such things, which he did not understand; obviously it was better to be dead than live and know one’s weakness. Monoloke had no master but Geoffrey. And if Geoffrey died? It was a frightening thought. Would he then take the black-robed mortal female as master? Or that singer, who after all was a kind of creator?

Or would he worship as the mortals did? Would he kneel to a tree?

The mist faded, as, kneeling, he meditated on gods and strength. He saw hob-goblins all about him, with swords and spears.

Monoloke looked around at them. “Good,” he said, in the language of the goblinkin. “You’ve found me. Now you must take me to your master.” He stood. They did not kill him.

“Why should we do that?” one of them asked. Monoloke nodded, to show he had been expecting the question.

“I have news for him,” he said. “About the mortals to the south, and their plans. And their strength.” He looked around at the hob-goblins, ignoring their weapons. “Well?”

They took him.


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