The Fell Gard Codices


Gamelyn, stepping back from the arch, watching elves shoot goblins, doesn’t pay much attention to the singing when he first hears it. By the time he realises it’s coming from somewhere to the north, William’s joined in. Voices rise together and fall. Fingers nimble on gut strings. Gamelyn’s lost, dizzied, as when the gargoyle caught him with its riddle: wandering in an elemental world, in which time is only an illusion. His mind steps aside from itself. He listens, and is moved.

Blue-black blood coats the stone floor of the north hall. Red blood mixes with the soil of the cave. Silver light glistens on both alike, indifferent. The rough stone of the cave wall rises up before him, almost black, sheer except for the wide opening onto the hall beyond. William sings; mortals and elves are stunned by beauty. The harp sounds among the noises of dying things, in the unchanging night of Fell Gard.

Men and women run through the wide cave mouth.

Before, while they’d waited for who-knew-what, Gamelyn had spoken to the short balding priest, Mew. “You can’t really heal, can you?” he’d asked.

“Of course I can,” said Mew. “I’m a prophet.”

“Prophets of demon princes can harm and damn,” said Gamelyn. “But heal?”

Mew had looked him over, obviously sizing him up to see what kind of lie was possible. “Sometimes,” he’d admitted in the end, “bad things happen after the healing. Look, Reike is the god of aimless wandering. He turns your feet where he wants. He’s like a lot of demons. He’ll give you what you need, but you’ve got to pay him back.” The man grinned, a bit too oily; a bit too self-satisfied. A bit too pleased with his deity’s power and small-mindedness.

Then Gryselde and the elves had come. On their heels the hob-goblins. The watchers had cheered, him, all of them, and then the fight had begun. Gamelyn had hung back. The wizard and vala had gone south, the wizard to Amanos and the vala to the woods. The preceptor led the fight (it’s odd, Gamelyn thinks now: she has a sword so big she has to use it with both hands, and a shield she keeps slung over her back when she does — which is to say that she will use either sword or shield, but not both at once) and threw the hob-goblins back. A steady stream of elf-shot drove the goblinkin further down the hall.

By sheer evil chance one of the few arrows the goblins had loosed in return had caught Gamelyn standing at the back. Mew had healed him. Gamelyn remembers his yellow-toothed smirk. The goblins attacked again. And were beaten back again.

Then the singing starts, northward, down the hall, and William of the Long Road joins it; and now?

Now the preceptor has taken off her helmet, to hear better. Gryselde is standing still, weeping. The six elves have dropped their bows, and the ratmen are unmoving, their heads bowed. Mew is blank-eyed, his mouth slack. Hugh’s soldiers, and the swordswoman Lina at their head, are frozen, straining to catch every note. The bard kneels before his harp, before the cave mouth, and, anguished, he sings of betrayal; men and women advance out of Fell Gard’s darkness into the ætheric light, led by the man who began the song: and that man, Gamelyn reckons, bright-eyed and fair-haired, is a halfjack.

Gamelyn’s caught by the song as much as any of them. In part. Another part of him knows that the song is only a mask, an art affected by the singer. No, he tells himself, that is not true. — But a shadow in his mind says yes, it is. — But all that is most mortal in him insists no, it is not.

He realises he’s got a great thirst, though not for water or wine. He finds himself walking. He has to find something to drink. He has to get away from the song, which is truer than he can bear, or more false. Or both. Gamelyn wanders away from the cave mouth, southward, past the sorine, as something begins to rise out of the lake to the west.


Only a few minutes more, Gryselde told herself as the dwimmerlaik stumbled by her, dazed. She could not have moved if she had wanted to. William’s song was more powerful than she had ever heard it, uncanny, magic. She mourned for him, and wept that she could have done nothing to keep this from him — no, that she could have, and did not. She knew the song would end, soon. And then … why, then worse would come.

She heard something rise from the lake with a crash of waves; she knew what it was, and felt a moment of happiness for William.


Gamelyn wanders south, past the inn. He hears the sound to his right, waves crashing. He looks across the open space of the village, to the lake. He sees:

A great shell, like a giant’s conch, rises. Water splashes and clatters from its fluting. From the whorl of the vast shell run elves, in shimmering scaled armour, fishlike. The last of them is a tall woman in white armour and a white cloak; Gamelyn is not sure whether he is seeing truly, or witness to an illusion.

Behind him, the music stops.

“Enheduanna?” cries the singer. “Enheduanna?

The elf-woman leaps to shore, following the others, and draws her sword.


William ran south. To the Elder King with his bargain, with Powys-Terrwyn, with all of it. The outlaws had all hurried south past him; with their ears stuffed, they wouldn’t know he’d stopped singing. He ran to the elves. To the woman he loved.

Enheduanna!” he howled again, brushing by the slow-stumbling dwimmerlaik.

At last, she turned. “William!” she cried, delighted. She took a step toward him, embraced him, kissed him. “Come!” she cried happily. “We’ve orcs to slay!”

“Enheduanna,” said William. He was crying, he thought. “But you — how — what happened?”

She took a step southward and eastward, then stopped, sighed, and turned to him. Beyond, southward, the other elves ran toward the howling orcs. The elves threw barbed spears with long, curving blades, and then drew swords. “They wouldn’t let me come back to you,” she said. “When we came to the lake, you and I and the others, I thought I heard them — sensed them. I went to them under the water, and found they were planning to fall on the mortals, and kill them. I convinced them not to do this; and then when they heard the orcs, they decided to risk coming to the surface — well, we’ll see what happens next.”

“But,” he said, “but how did you live — how did you breathe?”

She tilted her head for a moment, confused; as she always looked when presented with some mere mortal understanding. Then her face cleared. “Ah!” she said. “I forget — your folk cannot breathe water. Mine can; these ones were driven below, a long time past, by the wicked huldrafolk of the woods.” She bowed her head to him, and made the Sign of Holly. “I am sorry, William,” she said sincerely. “I was thoughtless.”

“I don’t care,” he said. “You’ve come back to me!”

He took her in his arms; and no, he did not care, about the elves killing the orcs, or about Jeroen Halfjack’s allies, or even, at that moment, about the village or the goblins spilling into the cave or anything else at all.

She held him, and kissed him, and that was enough.


The song’s stopped, but Gamelyn’s still confused. He can’t tell true from false. Something in the bard’s song, or else the prophet’s touch, or else the growth of the mask and shadow within him — or all these things, together. He’s thirsty, that’s all he knows, and he cannot say what will quench this thirst. He stumbles on, seeing the singer and the elf embrace. The orcs beyond them are screaming in pain.

He goes on, quick step by quick step. Behind him hob-goblins run into the cave. Ygerna, mostly without words, gathers the murineans and elves and Hugh’s men and the former slaves, and makes a screen between the inn and the hob-goblins. Elf-arrows shoot into the mass of goblinkin. Mew breaks, racing to the inn. Gamelyn wants nothing to do with any of it. Meanwhile the outlaws are running to the east side of the church. Further south elves are killing orcs; beyond them the huldrafolk are fighting little darklings. It all seems very distant to him. As though it were not real at all.

He stumbles on southward, letting demons and chance turn his steps where they will.


Ulixa finally had enough of the six canons of Secga of the Tongues, and sent them to the inn’s guest-room. The wing was built of wood and clay, but if it were burnt down or hacked to bits and all the canons died with it, Ulixa thought it’d serve them right. The six of them would not stop quarrelling, even punching each other with weak old-men’s blows. With space so tight in the inn’s main room, she had no compunction about sending them all off together to a place where they could curse each other as much as they liked without disturbing anyone else.

It smelled strongly of human beings in the common room. Even without the canons there were still too many people. Yet it seemed oddly quiet. She could hear a song outside, which suddenly stopped. Then goblin war-shrieks. Someone in the inn began to sob.

“Pathetic,” murmured someone else. The tall man, Nicodemus of the Burning Book.

Ulixa might have said something; but there came a pounding on the northern door of the inn-room, the one that opened to the yard at the centre of the u-shaped building. “In the name of mercy, open the door,” sobbed Mew’s voice. “The goblins have broken through! Give me shelter!”

“We have no room!” someone shouted back. One of the prisoners, John’s people, she thought.

She pushed her way to the door. Mew began to scratch at the wood. It was perhaps the most pathetic thing she’d ever heard. “Mew, the room is full!” she cried. “How many are you?”

“We’ll be cut to pieces out here!” Mew sobbed. A groan ran through the room.

“Listen to me,” called Nicodemus behind her. “All of you, listen!”

Olujimi grabbed her arm. “Don’t let him speak!” he whispered. “Don’t trust him!”

But it was too late for that.


Gamelyn stumbles away southward. The goblins, hobgoblins, whatever they are, are between Ygerna’s forces, Hugh’s men, and the outlaws; they’re all fighting each other. An indistinct mass melee develops near the north wall of the cave. Meanwhile ahead of him Amanos and the dwarves and a few others have gathered at the church’s western door, demanding to be let in. The cervidwen have ceased to stir their pot. He can smell their potion, though, and it is like a balm to him, promising an end to his thirst.

Gryselde races past, a blur of black robes, heading toward the waterfront.


Richard rubbed at his ear as he led his men toward the church. A good idea of the halfjack’s, yes, stop their ears while he and the other singer worked their magic. Only now he couldn’t get the rest of the wax out, and he was half-deaf. “The falcon!” he cried, pulling out his sword. A man in armour was leading a charge against him from the east; a woman in armour led a mismatched group of warriors on the western side of the church; goblins were behind him, fighting his rear-guard. None of it mattered if they could get inside the church.

His mother, with half the company behind her, pointed to the eastern side of the building. “Ahead!” she cried. “The falcon to the spire!”

The plan, as the halfjack had outlined it to them (Tom Patch sniggering and sneering in the darkness) was to seize the church. “They’ll have the children of the town there,” the halfjack had said, “and the old, whoever doesn’t fight. Now you take them hostage, and the rest will have to let you be; when the time comes, you trade your hostages for the girl Katherine of Aurelium, and safe passage.” That was the core of it. The halfjack swore his brother and patron could guide them out of the dungeon afterward. His mother had decided to play it as the halfjack said; he’d given them fair counsel so far, it seemed — was it luck he’d found them, after the retreat from the goblins, or his brother’s power?

So the halfjack had guided them south and west, to the boy with the cart and then south from there, parallel to the broad hall that led right to Innsdene. He’d taken them past a ghost and sundry other things, to wait silent in the darkness behind a door not far north of the cave holding the town. With the door open a fingernail’s-breadth, his eye pressed to the crack, he’d waited, and waited, and the sounds of war had come; and then he’d begun to sing.

Richard had no idea where the halfjack was now, but ahead was the eastern door of the stone church. Like all Ossianic churches, it had the plan of a figure-eight; a ring of holly to the north and a ring of oak to the south. The doors were to east and west, at the centre where the rings joined. To the east, though, the house of the village priests stood before the eastern door, almost sheltering it. That was useful.

His mother led men with axes to the door. They began to hack at it. There were screams inside the church. Richard had the rest of the men take a position between the church and the priests’ house, and get ready to face the charge from the villagers.

Only the charge wasn’t coming. The villagers had turned aside to deal with the goblins, who themselves weren’t much interested in fighting a well-armed and well-armoured group of warriors. An ill-trained and ill-equipped town militia suited them better, nor did Richard blame them.

Everything was falling into place. They only had to stand their ground until the door behind them gave way.

“The falcon!” he cried again.


There’s quite a lot of confusion at the west of the church. Amanos hammering at the door, barking orders. Geoffrey passes something on to Kwangrolar, who flies up at top speed over the building. Somebody calls to Gamelyn, but it’s too much effort to respond. He stumbles on southward, left hand against the stones of the church.

The orcs are dead. Spears driven through their bodies, heads hacked from shoulders. The elves have gone on, into the woods. There’s some kind of a fight there. Gamelyn hears a battle on the far side of the church (not his church, he thinks, no truth that he recognises), and another back the way he came, Ygerna against the goblins.

The cervidwen, with Ulric beside them, are carrying their iron pot and potion westward, away from the fight and toward the lake; their heavy wooden stirring-poles now serving as braces under the lip of the cauldron. It’s an odd sight. If it’s real.

He can smell it, their potion, rich and wondrous. It is sweet, it is bitter. There is no meat in it, but the smell has a fullness like what you’re looking for when you eat meat. It’s nearly ready. His mouth waters.

No. He will not have it.

Much as something in him pulls him toward it, something else in him says no. The mask in him. The potion is truth, and the demonic thirst upon him is nothing next to the elemental need to hide truth; to hele, conceal, and never reveal. The shadow in him that is his own worst enemy will not let him go to drink. Not that Ulric or the cervidwen would allow him, even if he went.

Gamelyn stares at the steam arising from the cauldron. In its uncoiling he seems to see gestures, signs of meaning. Hints of truth. Sad truth; more than he wants to know. And yet all he will let himself see of inspiration.

He remembers a charm. He speaks it. A mist springs up, rolling around him to every hand. It derives from the cauldron’s steam, but it’s far more than that. He sends it out, all around him, his own confusion and all in him that is indistinct and unexamined, made visual.

This is what it is to be a thing that is called dwimmerlaik: one inflicts one’s own illusions on the world.

He staggers backward, until he thumps again into the stone wall of the church. He turns and begins to walk through the fog, following the curve of the church south and east. His thirst is gone. Now he feels there’s something in the woods he wants to see.

Stumbling rapidly eastward, a shadow looms before him in the mist. A tree, he thinks; and then it moves. It’s Hwitwic. Gamelyn stares at the forest lord, who says nothing and watches him in return. The runes cut into the cervidwen’s antlers seem to glow oddly in the ætheric light filtering through the mist.

Gamelyn staggers on, feeling something to the east pull at him, and Hwitwic turns away to someone behind him, to a murmuring voice.


Tilde put her hand on the forest lord’s arm. “Hwitwic,” she said deliberately, “it’s been fun, but my new friend and I are going now.”

The cervidwen turned to look at her. “There’s nothing more I can do,” she said. “I’ve thought about this a lot over the past several minutes. Gryselde’s brought this … war … on the town. I don’t know why.” She took a breath. “I have a friend now,” she said, and almost wept. “I have no more magic in me,” she said. “What can I do, here?” I have no more charms! she thought. Only enough to draw in a single orc; and the strength that had taken — oh, what she had become?

Never mind that, she told herself sternly. “Hwitwic,” she said, “I’m going south, and leaving. No, don’t worry about me, I’ll find my own way, with my orc.” There was a mist all about them, suddenly. Where had it come from? “Listen,” she said. “You have to tell them … about Nil and Reprisal. This is something else Gryselde —”

She paused, struck by a thought. Gryselde was new to the dungeon. Sometimes Tilde forgot what that meant. Gryselde doesn’t know about Reprisal, she told herself. No-one on these upper courts would. “But then,” she said, staring at Hwitwic, “then I’m the only one — Hwitwic, why didn’t she tell anyone else?” Because she was told not to, and didn’t know any better, she answered herself.

She realised it all depended on her; that she was the only one who knew what was going on. And I have no power, she thought. No more magic. Only wine, and the bætulum. But was Gryselde any different? She had no magic, and certainly she was no hero of legend to dare the lower courts. What could she do? What could any of them do?

Tilde wondered what the answer, whatever it was, would say about herself.

“I have to stay,” she said aloud. Her hand dropped from Hwitwic’s arm. “I have to do something,” she said. “My god. I’m probably going to die, but I have to do something. Only what can I do?”

She stared at Hwitwic, who stared back, looming in the mist.

She nodded. “Right,” she muttered. “I’ll stay. Ah, god.” She looked around and took a deep breath. “Off we go,” she muttered. She looked back over her shoulder at the still figure of the forest lord.

“Thank you, Hwitwic,” she said. “You’ve been very helpful.”


Gamelyn wanders south under the trees, his mist trailing behind him. It rolls through the forest, reaching to the elves ahead. They’re advancing in a sort of well-spaced skirmish line through the trees toward the huldrafolk. The elves are quiet, and the huldrafolk are fighting darklings. The elves go unnoticed for the moment.

There’s something ahead, past the huldrafolk. A dark figure advancing into the cave; Gamelyn can glimpse it in the eastern clearing, between the trees. He feels himself being pulled toward it. Easy enough to make his way. The huldrafolk are scattered. Their song doesn’t do anything to the darklings, so they fight, one against one, or they run or give chase; nothing magic here, nothing unreal, only brute force.

The darklings, Gamelyn knows, are unfinished creatures, scraps of dream. Some of them change as he watches, narrowing or lengthening to slip between pine branches, to get away from the huldrafolk. The darklings are not quite fixed in their forms, not so long as they have their cloaks of shade. They can be made to be other than they are, he knows. Powerful magic can do it. More powerful than what he commands. That’s probably what changed the darkling Gryselde and the others took prisoner the other night, probably what gave it the power of speech.

He could have told them this, then. He didn’t. That’s what it means to control illusions: to always know more than you let on.

He walks through the confused battles of the huldrafolk and darklings, absently heading south and east. Toward the tall lean figure who commands the darklings.

Behind him the elves reach the huldrafolk.


William heard Kezia shouting to the water-elves. “No! We must stand with the huldrafolk! Listen to me! I am vala!

He had come with Enheduanna, following the water-elves that, having killed the orcs, had decided to go onward and attack their old enemies, the huldra. Only now Kezia had come out of the forest; had she been speaking to the huldrafolk?

Some of the elves close to her paused; but their line was spread out. A fog had sprung up. How could they hear her? How could they even see her?

Ah, well; ask the question, and answer it. He took up his harp.

He began to play, as he had played in that cave, when they’d fought the darklings — he remembered the passion that had driven him, the sureness of his fingers on the strings —

— the green light, that sprang to life now once again, and arced out to crown Kezia.

The elves, so far as he could see through the fog, paused. “I am vala!” repeated Kezia to the elves. “Leave your war with the huldrafolk! I have spoken! We fight together, against dark dreams! See!”

She waved a hand, and the forest came to life.


He sees it clearly, now. The tall figure, ahead of him, that has drawn him into the woods. A nightjack. He knows it, the paleness of its skin. Its overlarge eyes. There is a guard of darklings about it. Three toadeater demons follow it; the jack is their lord, whom they must flatter and whose soul they will take to hell.

If the nightjack can be said to have a soul. He knows it for what it is. Like to like. It is all shadow, all mask. Something in him responds to that. Gamelyn realises with horror that he has been drawn here by the nightjack’s command of dreams, its greater power of illusion. He understands that something in him wants to do homage to it.

It advances toward him, westward. He can’t move. He doesn’t want to go to it; he cannot force himself to back away, to run.

Then behind him he hears the song. William’s song, again, magic in the sound, and Gamelyn gasps, for the truth of it, the beauty. For the way it says that beauty is truth and truth, beauty, and that is all there is to know.

Around him there is a war in the woods, as roots and branches twist, and snap like whips, coiling around the darklings however they run or jump or stretch themselves. Trees bend and stretch.

The nightjack and his demons pause.

Gamelyn turns, and runs, westward and northward, back into his fog. Away from the nightjack. Away from whatever it offers. And toward the lakeside.

Toward the cervidwen and their cauldron.


Hochelaga didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know who the right person was to turn to. Once Kwangrolar had come with an order for Aura from Amanos (go into the church, invisibly open such-and-such a door). But now they were all just waiting, really, trying to keep together in the mist that had sprung up. Somewhere, Hugh was fighting goblins. But what could they do to help, in that confusion?

“Hochelaga,” said Tilde, striding out of the fog. Hochelaga turned; she had thought Tilde had wandered off southward. But no, there she was. The orc she’d enchanted was with her, and she had a very determined look on her face. “Hochelaga,” said Tilde again. “Will you listen to me? Will you trust me, as an older and wiser glossologist?”

“I’m not sure,” said Hochelaga. “Didn’t you say you only had one charm in your head?”

The question just popped out. Hochelaga didn’t mean it. It was embarrassing, like when she’d found herself at the council the other day, looking at Ulixa and going on about moving from white to white — she hadn’t meant anything, or hadn’t meant to mean anything, but it was embarrassing because maybe some part of her meant something, but she didn’t really, and anyway Ulixa almost certainly wouldn’t have noticed anything, so how could you even say you were sorry? But this was worse.

“Listen to me,” said Tilde, ignoring it; Hochelaga thought she hadn’t been paying attention to what Hochelaga had said, which, from Tilde, seemed unusual. Hochelaga therefore paid extra attention to what Tilde said next.

“I have to tell you a story,” said Tilde, “about two powerful and terrible creatures named Nil and Reprisal.”


Gamelyn runs past the battle by the church door. He can hear the hacking of swords through the mist. Shouts and screams. He runs harder than he ever has in his life.

He knows, now; there’s something in him that’s alive. That has responded to art, to the bard’s song. There is some answer for him in the song, but what? What that he will see, through the mask, with a shadow over him? That’s the confusion set on him. That’s the state he’s in.

He knows that he needs the inspiration the cervidwen have brewed. Needs it in order to be whole. To be more than a shadow; more than a mask.

He finds them, on the lakeside. By the smell of it he finds them. The four forest ladies. Ulric. Gryselde, too. He draws close to the cauldron, unseen, wreathed in mist. At the last moment the sorine turns.

He has already reached the cauldron, and the potion splashes as the cervidwen stir it, so that three drops fall on his hand.

“Wait,” says Gryselde, seeing him. “What are you doing here?”


Anselm didn’t know what to do. He’d been calming people as well as he could; but they’d all heard the axe-blows against the east door, seen the tips of the blades chopping through the wood, knew the wood would give entirely in moments. Ranulf was shouting through the western door, denying entrance to someone. And then something Anselm didn’t see brushed past him. And then Ranulf fell back and the western door of the church opened.

The people of Innsdene screamed as a woman in armour ran in — hobbled in, really. Behind her was a big, broad man with a thick beard. Behind him were monsters, and a thick fog.

Ranulf grabbed Anselm’s arm. “Stand back,” he said. “Let them be!”

Anselm watched the lady knight pointing to where she wanted her warriors to stand. By the eastern door. Lying in wait for the outlaws. Everybody else scrambled away.

Anselm pulled his arm free from Ranulf. He went to the knight, who turned; he held up his hands; then laid them upon her in benediction. He could not say what moved him to do so, other than that it was clear she was in pain.

But when he took his hands away, the lady knight stood straighter, and he knew he had healed her.

Anselm stumbled back. What had happened? Had he chosen some new future, so easily? Or was it some sort of trick? Surely it couldn’t be so simple.

Ranulf began to shout at him. The knight opened the door, and pulled in an outlaw, who, surprised, was smoothly disarmed by the big man. Then the knight was at the door, cutting down more outlaws until they ran.

Anselm had no idea what to make of it all; or what to make of his own self, which he now suspected held previously hidden depths.


Behind him, Gamelyn hears a shout; he glances back to see Amanos on top of the church spire, crying Vartha!

Her shout rings loud, high and true. It is not at all musical. Yet it reminds him of William’s singing. The raw emotion. Mortal truth, wrapped in sound, throat and voice.

He pauses for a moment. He hears, distantly, someone playing upon the bagpipes.

It is the same song that struck him before. Or not quite, and yet also yes, it is.

It’s a song that touches the quick of him. It reminds him that masks are true. And that the truth of a mask is that it has something more behind it. The song, without words, reminds him of the power that comes of the hidden thing. Of those things that must be hidden to be understood. Of truth that can be known only by its mask.

Of art, and of what art can do. Of how art’s illusion is truth (whether perceived or not, whether understood or not). Of how fantasy brings salvation.

Of what it is to shape all this matter.

And this is not to be found in any cervidwen’s potion.

“No,” he says to Gryselde, laughing, rubbing the potion from his hand. “I thought I wanted something here. No. I was wrong. I was led astray by a demon. By my own demons. Never mind that.”

He understands, now, what he had forgotten since the gargoyle had asked that terrible question of him. He is a dwimmerlaik. He is a fantasist. He is an artist.

All the rest of him is only a mask for that truth. All the rest of him is merely a shadow, pulled one way and then another by demons and dreams and delusions.

He sets it all behind him and begins to run toward the inn.

Halfway there he meets the young mortal vala, coming out from the trees with an old woman behind him.


Spyrling was confused. The old lady had finally let him go, once he’d mentioned the old dwarf. Now she insisted that he lead her to him.

Only it seemed like there was a war on in the cave, and fog everywhere, and he didn’t understand what was going on. So when he saw the dwimmerlaik he thought for a moment he might have a way out of the confusion. The old lady’s hand still gripped his shoulder tight. “Hey!” Spyrling called. “Hey! Where’s everyone gone? Hey!”

“The inn!” the sightblinder called back over his shoulder. “Everyone’s there! Come along, why don’t you?”

He laughed madly, and ran toward the inn. Spyrling followed. He realised he could hear music: bagpipes.

What they found at the inn seemed to surprise the dwimmerlaik. Not Spyrling, though. Nothing really was making sense; so why not a singalong with goblins?


“And then what happened?” asks Gamelyn, still confused. “When this Nicodemus got up to speak?”

“Oh, he said the most dreadful things,” Wymarc tells him. “How we should follow him, and go out into the dungeon, and how a new order was coming, and he would be a part of it. And all such things. Somehow … well, it was all vanity. And yet the way he spoke, you thought it made sense.”

“Illusion,” says Gamelyn. “Don’t worry about it. Then what? Did Ulixa, or someone, speak out against him?”

“Not as such,” says Wymarc. She points to a short woman with lank black hair and dead-white skin. One of the other inn-guests. “That one muttered a few words and the tall fellow collapsed. That was when Ulixa stood up and said it was up to all of us to do our best to defend our defenders, if we could. And then she marched out, and many of us with her. Robert started to play, and hasn’t stopped — it was all just two or three minutes gone.”

Gamelyn looks back to Amanos, with her sword drawn on top of the church; at the young leader of the outlaws, his hands upon his head, kneeling before Sir Hugh. He looks over at the hob-goblins, jammed in the cave-mouth, caught by Robert’s art. There are more of them, coming behind. And the battle of elves and darklings is still ongoing. And yet it feels as though some turning point has been reached, if only in his own mind.

He walks to Ulixa. “You know I’m ready to teach you, if you’re still ready to learn.”

She looks at him, and then back to another man, a black-skinned man; she is thinking.

Let her think. You must think to be a dwimmerlaik.


“Ulric,” said Gryselde. She felt only emptiness. It was all done, all decided.

“It’s done,” said Ulric, laughing. “The potion’s done. I thought the dwimmerlaik — but no matter.”

“Ulric, listen to me,” said Gryselde. The prophet paused at her tone.

Oh, it was done. The shape of things had been acted out. The potion was ready, and the sideshow of the little war in the cavern was finished, one way or another.

“Ulric,” she said, “I need the potion. I promised it to another, in exchange for Kate’s life.”

“You did — what?” he said, stepping back, a look of horror on his face.

“Ulric,” she said. “If you drink the potion, Kate will die. Let me have it.”

“You did … it can’t be,” he said. He dropped to his knees. “You can’t have,” he murmured.

Gryselde stared at him. Yes, it was all done, then. “Nil,” she said aloud. She reached her hands into the hot brew, and raised a double-handful. “Nil!” she shouted. “I call you, Nil!”

And in a moment, crying loud, the dragon was there, flying through from the north to hover above her head, its passage scattering the mist that had been sprawling through the cave; and in its claw was a dizzy creature half princess and half cobold.

Then very many other things happened, rather more surprising to her; they began with the appearance of a second dragon, and went on from there.


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One Response to “Part 3, Chapter 18: A Few Minutes in the Fog of War”

  1. Perfidius the Rogue

    Oh, you tricky, magnificent b*stard! Now THAT was a good set of twists! 😀

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