The Fell Gard Codices

Part 3, Chapter 21: Over an Abyss

September 14th, 2011


Gral glared at the mortal woman. “I did what I felt to be right,” he told her.

They were standing on the shore by the lake, a confused crowd around them.

“You attacked me,” said Ulixa. The prophet, Ulric, laid a hand on her shoulder; she drew a breath, and straightened. “I could have been killed,” she said. “If not by you, then by something that came upon me, the halfjack or darklings or —”

“Or a dragon,” said Gral. “That could have killed you.”

“What happened?” asked Gryselde. “You must tell us.”

“I needed the stone and coronet,” said Gral. “I beat Ulixa to take the stone. I set demons on the child wizard for the other.”

“You did what?” said William. Mew laughed.

“Well, he’s not lying,” muttered Ulixa.

“I saw it,” said another voice. It was the cobold princess. “I’m sorry,” she said in a rush, “I know I should have done something, I shouldn’t have just hidden in the woods, but, but — but I did, and I saw him strike her in the back and then the head. And I didn’t know what to do!”

“Gral, why did you do this?” asked Gryselde.

Gral looked around. “I will tell you,” he said, “but not before this crowd.”

“Will you tell Ulixa, as well?” asked the sorine. Gral nodded. “Good enough,” decided Gryselde. “Listen to me, all of you. The orcs were in the chambers of Oak and Holly a day and a night. We must see what wickedry they did there. Let those of us who desire it go at once; and then some of us will withdraw to the Abyss of Stairs, to pass judgment on this member of our Household. Will you give me your sword, Gral?” Of course; he handed it to her at once. Did she think he on his own would take up arms against all of them?

“Wait a minute,” said Mew. “Wait. The singer let in the, the band that came through the north — he conspired with them.”

“And won through to the dragon, and saved us all,” said Entemena. “The one cancels the other. Let us move forward with life.”

“We will address that matter after,” said Gryselde. “First, the trees; and then Gral, whose case seems simpler than William’s. For those who do not wish to come — Diccon, will you see to matters here, and gather everyone at the inn?” The youth grinned and nodded, and Gryselde went on: “Hochelaga, we will need to hear what happened to you. Ulric, will you come as well?”

Before Ulric could agree, Kezia said: “I must go to those rooms. The elves of this cavern will return to their place under the waters, and the huldrafolk to the forests, and in the days to come I shall make a peace between them; now, I must see how the orcs have profaned the other forest.”

Gryselde bowed her head to the vala, and strode swiftly eastward. The others began to follow.

Gral felt a tap on his shoulder. “You know why she’s doing this?” Yune whispered to him. Gral nodded. Yune smiled, and nodded back. “She’s not a total fool, that one,” he said. More loudly, he said: “I’ll go with you. We should talk on the way.”

Alkahest joined them as they walked. Most of those who went were mortals, though Enheduanna accompanied William; so there were the six of them from that first room, Kezia, Entemena, Paradox with his wings and sword, the dwimmerlaik, the preceptor, the old bard, some of the prisoners and slaves of the outlaws, and all the quarrelsome canons of the language-god (swearing at each other now and again, cursing each the other’s cowardice). The glum, and the gawry who joined them on the way. The gangly mortal vala, and the black-clad wizard-maid scowling at him. The cobold-child. The sylph, no longer invisible. Of course Ulixa, and her crow-thing that glared at Gral and clutched at her sword-hilt.

As they went, a drawn-out straggling crowd, others came to them; Gral heard Geoffrey shout: “You’ll try the dwarf? If you need an executioner, I’ll stand headsman!” Sir Hugh and his soldiery were occupied with the outlaws, but a runner came to the sorine: the woman in armour named Lina. She spoke urgently in whispers with Gryselde, who halted to speak with her.

Gral moved ahead to hear what they debated. “— if you come,” he heard Lina whisper. “But Sir Hugh must speak with someone. If not you … the Morien woman.” Gryselde looked at Ulixa.

Ulixa sighed. “I’ll meet you at Oak and Holly,” she said. She glared at Gral, and went with Lina.

What would happen now? Gral wondered, watching the two of them go. The procession resumed, heading east.

He walked near the head of the procession, not far behind the sorine. “Is it all right?” he heard the cobold child say to Gryselde, as they left the eastern room where the door had been splintered by the orcs. “I’m so sorry … I was so dizzy when the dragon took me out from behind the mirror, you don’t know what it was like in there, in that dark place … I crawled to the woods, and I … I …” she shook her head. “I understand now that I was wrong ever to go to the outlaws,” she whispered. “I wanted to go back to what I was. But I couldn’t. That could never happen. If I did, who would rescue Domini? I didn’t see that, and now … look at all that happened.”

There was something in what she said that seemed to Gral to be significant; but he could not immediately say what that might be. As he pondered this, Yune and Alkahest approached him. “A death,” Gral said to Alkahest. “I have not forgotten.” Alkahest nodded. “Tell me,” said Gral. “Do you know your parents?”

“I do not,” said the girl. She considered her words. “I was left with the folk who raised me. They have not told me of my birth. That will come, in time. What does it matter? We are a nation of dwarves. Who but each other shall we trust, and who trust if not each other?”

“There are other issues to discuss,” said Yune. “Gral. The old mortal woman that spoke to me — she is a thief, but you are not to kill her. She knows much … she understood my rank.”

“The mortals are no part of our societies,” said Gral.

“No,” agreed Yune, “but they can recognise our masters and grandmasters. She’s playing a dangerous game, that one.”

“For what end?” asked Gral. “Why reveal herself to you?”

Yune rubbed at his thinning beard. “She learned who I was,” he said. “She watched us when we came, she chose her moment, she took a captive to interrogate. She has a secret, you see, knowledge she should not have, but does.”

“And what is that knowledge?” asked Gral.

Yune looked about them. They had reached the measuring-stick room. Gral remembered burning mortal corpses there. “She learned the schemes of a mortal King named Simon,” Yune said, “and I fear what that King plans will threaten not only the outer world, but Fell Gard as well.” He sighed. “And these mortals, they move so very quickly. I do not have a decade or two to consider how best to stop him. It may already be too late.”

“How could an outer-world king threaten Fell Gard?” asked Alkahest.

“There are … balances … that may be threatened,” said Yune. “How can an outer-world mortal threaten Fell Gard? It was an outer-world mortal that created Fell Gard.”

Alkahest nodded. “How can we reach him, if we are here in the dungeon?” she asked. Yune did not immediately answer. When they reached the storeroom filled with tools he sighed again.

“Magic,” he said. “Magic; and the exercise of secrets. That is what the House of Creation excels in. That is how it must survive, and, surviving, maintain all the world. But here is the site of your trial, Gral. If the mortals let you live, we shall speak more of this later.”

They had reached the first of the Forest Chambers, as the mortals called them; the small room furthest west. Gral heard Kezia cry out as though hurt. He saw, as he entered, that most of the trees had been chopped down. The greenery had been burnt black in many places; in others it was withered. The smell of orc dung and orc piss was heavy in the air.

The next room, with the oak and holly trees, was not so greatly changed. Still, many of the smaller trees had been cut down, others had several great wounds in its trunk, and limbs had been hacked off — to make spears, Gral imagined. The oak trunk was scarred, gouges running top to bottom. The holly had a knife-track running right round it. “How could they do this?” cried Kezia. “Look; they have cut a circle in the trunk — there’s no reason to that, they only meant to hurt, to kill the tree! Ah, I wish they were alive again, that I might inflict on them all the pain they brought here!”

“I don’t know,” said the tall youth, Spyrling. “I think — I mean, there are things — well, look.” He set his hand on one of the trees: the holly. He closed his eyes. Gral saw the bark of the tree stretch up toward itself. A few tendrils connected and knit together. Spyrling removed his hand and staggered back. “Uh,” he said. “That, uh.” He dropped to a knee.

“You’re a vala,” said Kezia, surprised. She went to him, and lifted him up, not ungently. The youth stared at her slack-jawed, half awed and half fearful. “You can heal them!”

“I guess?” said Spyrling. “I mean … I’m a novice … and it takes so much power …”

Kezia clasped him to her. Gral saw the youth’s eyes open wide. The elf released him: “I as well was but a learner,” she said, in a formal tone. “And yet together perhaps you and I may restore this place to what it was. What is your name?”

“S-Spyrling,” said the mortal.

“Spyrling,” said Kezia. “Will you work with me, to heal this piece of forest?”

“I guess,” said Spyrling. The youth stared, stunned, at the elf. She smiled at him. He smiled back, dazed. Kezia left, to speak with Entemena; Spyrling stared at where she had been, still smiling. The girl Sybil punched him on the arm. “Ow,” he said, inattentive and dreaming.

Gral looked to Gryselde, who nodded and tilted her head to the passage leading to the Abyss. She slipped away as most of the others scattered to look about the chamber, to run their hands over the oak tree and the holly tree. Gral went with William, Enheduanna, Ulric, and Hochelaga, following Gryselde to the stairway down, and so to the Abyss. For a moment in the hall there was darkness; then Ulric clasped his hands and opened them, and there was a white fire upon his palms. “Such the light of Urthona,” he murmured. “Such the light of inspiration.”

William groaned. “Please, sir,” he said, “do not say that word to me, for a time yet.” Ulric laughed.

The stairs led them to a landing above the Abyss. Gryselde, ahead of them, turned and waited as they came and stood in a rough circle about her. “Why are we here?” asked Enheduanna. “Or rather, should Ulixa not be here as well?”

“She will join us,” said Gryselde. “Then we will judge Gral. We have another matter to discuss first.”

“What the dragon said, about the six of us?” asked William. He looked around at each of them. “It’s true, we are a remarkable company.”

“Yes,” said Gryselde. “Though I doubt we know enough of Fell Gard’s secrets to unriddle Nil’s meaning. I meant something more. We have come very far, together, in the short time we’ve known one another. It’s been — four days?”

“A little less,” said William. “If we were brought in at the stroke of midnight, as the twenty-second of Woldmonath began, then it’s … still morning of the twenty-fifth.” Gryselde nodded.

“We’ve learned much, I think, and been through the most … extraordinary … events,” she said. “We have our allies. We have a House. And it is of that House I would speak. You see now we must negotiate our position with Innsdene, and with Sir Hugh of Innsdene.”

“I don’t understand,” said Enheduanna.

“Are we to be his people, subject to his commands and justice?” asked Gryselde. “Or do we present ourselves to him as a House, and negotiate rights of our own?”

“Negotiate for our own rights, obviously” answered Enheduanna, still puzzled.

William cleared his throat. “It occurs to me that I am intimately involved in this discussion,” he said. “What I did … it’s true, what Mew said. I conspired with the outlaws.”

“Shall Hugh try you, or shall we?” asked Gryselde.

“It all worked out,” said Hochelaga. “William shouldn’t be tried by anybody.

“I should,” said William. “I made a choice, and it was a poor one.” He shrugged. “It has resolved well, but matters might have gone otherwise.”

“And if this is a matter for our debate,” said Ulric, “what then of Gryselde?” They turned to her. “You surrendered the potion of inspiration to the dragon Nil,” said Ulric. “You said it had to be done to regain Kate.”

Gryselde sighed. “This is so. He came upon us as we fled the outlaws. He imprisoned Kate. I invoked the covenant —”

“You what?” cried Enheduanna. “Oh, Gryselde. Oh, you poor mortal. What he must have told you —”

“He told me what I must do, and that I must tell no one,” said Gryselde. “I think now because Reprisal was in Innsdene, and oathbound to the jacks. Therefore I did what I did. No-one died. Was it right?” She looked around at all them. “I think it was, in the end, what was best. Much of it would have come, in any event.”

“I would be interested,” said William, “in how you justify that assessment.”

Gryselde shrugged. “The nightjack wanted to recruit Nil,” she said. “Nil wanted the cervidwen’s potion. To make the potion, the cervidwen needed the ætheric moss, of the kind found only in that cavern. Therefore, whether we were present or not, some manner of confrontation would have occurred.”

“That’s … tenuous,” said William.

“Then consider this,” said Gryselde. “The beetles in the cave south of Innsdene would have come whether we were there or no; the huldrafolk would have emerged from the wood, to enthrall the villagers and use them to fight the beetles; many of them would have died. If we had not been there. But this is not to the point. Say I am wrong. Who will decide that? I would rather it were you, or Ulixa, or Tilde, or Yune; and not Sir Hugh.”

“Why?” asked William. “It has to be said, he is a true knight, and duly-appointed bailiff of his lord.”

“His lord is in the outer world,” said Gral, “not Fell Gard. Here Hugh is lord only of a few dozen mortals, most of them not fighters.” He looked at Gryselde. “Let us speak the truth,” he said. “May be you have brought the six of us here because we woke alongside you; but William is now the man that sang a dragon around to our side, and so saved us all. Enheduanna has been accepted by those elves that dwell in the waters of the cave. Hochelaga is a wizard, and tutor to other wizards and would-be wizards. Ulric, well, I suppose he is the man for whom the potion was brewed, a prophet and beloved of the cervidwen. But I am of the tradition of Yune, and you have heard I am of near blood to Alkahest, who is a princess in Fell Gard. We are useful folk to have agree with you.”

“All this is true,” said Gryselde. “But I would say firstly that perhaps this is why we were set together; that it is because it was in our nature to raise ourselves to what we have all become.” Gral grunted, and spat. “Secondly,” continued Gryselde, “one might wonder whether there are not others of us equally as important, in this regard. Why Enheduanna and not Kezia? Why Hochelaga and not Tilde? Why you and not Yune?”

She looked around at all of them. “Soon Ulixa will come; we will judge Gral for what he did. Then we will return to Innsdene, and I will have to speak with Hugh. I will argue that our House must be accepted for what it is. But what is it? Will you, and will all of us, stand with each other? If I must threaten Hugh, if I must tell him that we will leave Innsdene rather than submit — will we?”

“We can’t just leave the village on its own,” said Hochelaga.

“No,” agreed Gryselde. “Yet it might be we will have to lead Hugh to believe we would, in order to be allowed to continue together.”

“What do you want us to say?” asked Enheduanna.

“I want to know whether you all believe in the House,” said Gryselde.

“But I don’t know what it is,” said Hochelaga. “Is it Atrahasis’ school? Is it a way for us to decide who gets to explore the dungeon?”

“And who heads the House?” said William. “Will it be you, Gryselde? Will there be more voting?”

“Who shall we allow into the House?” asked Enheduanna. “What if some clan in the dungeon ask for our protection, how shall we mediate their quarrels? Or what if some of the folk of Innsdene ask leave to join us — what will Hugh do then?”

Gral laughed. “You’re all fools,” he said. “After we had all awoken, when we talked in that stinking chamber, the prophet asked how anyone could know to trust another; the singer wanted to know how we six there in that room could know to trust each other. None of you have answered those questions, and therefore you are led to ask more.” He looked around at all of them. “I will trust,” he said, surprising himself. “For the moment. I trust the sorine to deal with your bailiff; I trust her to arrange some process in which we all may speak, to find a shape for this House.” He shrugged. “That’s all I will say.”

“I have not been inspired,” said Ulric. “I was not given the potion that was promised. And yet I have been carried through the air by an angel.” He paused. “That has healed me near as much, perhaps,” he murmured. “Still, if you have wronged anyone, Sorine, you have wronged me. Well, I will trust you. As far as the dwarf has said.”

“I will, as well, then,” said William.

“And I,” said Enheduanna. “Say what you will to Hugh; remind him that I, or Kezia, must speak with him soon, to mediate between Innsdene and the elves below.”

“I agree with everything,” said Hochelaga, “but if you send people out to explore the dungeon, you have to let me go with them. It’s the only way I’ll learn.”

“Is it?” said Gryselde. “I —” She paused, as a man cleared his throat: Gamelyn. He and Ulixa descended the last of the stairs, the corvina behind them. And, Gral noticed, Yune behind her.

“Have you begun?” asked Ulixa.

“No,” said Gryselde. “We had been discussing what to say to Hugh.”

Ulixa nodded. “He’s not very happy,” she said. “He commanded me to send you to him at once. But we have something more to do here, first.” She turned to Gral. Yune went to stand by him. “All right,” she said. “Why did you attack me? If you wanted that damned stone, why didn’t you ask for it?”

“You might have said no,” said Gral.

“And?” she asked.

“That’s all,” he said. “I know what the magics are of those three things. I knew they were the only power we had that could hope to match the might of the dragons. I knew I needed the three of them together. Therefore I took the one from you, and sent demons I had previously captured to take the other from Hochelaga.” He shrugged. “There was no time to talk, I judged, and if I had spoken to you, there on the shore, the jacks might have sent their darklings at us to take them at once. Every path seemed a perilous chance; what I did appeared best to me.”

“That’s it?” said Ulixa. “That’s all?”

William cleared his throat. “Why didn’t you want to speak of this before the others, then?” he asked Gral.

“At this time, not all of them know what those enchanted items are,” said Gral. “I was foolish enough to speak their names; I had thought whatever powers I would summon would kill the jacks, and I had thought invoking the three names might make the magics stronger. Perhaps it worked. But for now … you can decide what to do with the things, as you like.”

“I still have them all,” said Hochelaga quietly. “Ulric stopped Jeroen Halfjack before he could take them from me.”

“The halfjack!” cried William. “I forgot — Ulric, did you slay him?”

“I gave him a good rap upon the skull with my mace,” said Ulric. “But I think I left him alive.”

“If he —” started William, and paused, struck by a thought. “Why didn’t the dragons want those magics, if they’re so powerful?”

No-one knew.

“Who can say why dragons do what they do,” said Gryselde.

“Could they be used again?” asked Ulric. “Can we, at our whim, call upon angels?”

“No,” said Hochelaga. She sighed. “Magic needs a source of dreaming. Which … usually that’s the glossologist who makes a spell.”

“Or dwimmerlaik,” murmured Gamelyn. Hochelaga ignored him.

“So the only reason all those spirits were called was because of the dragon’s fire,” she said. “It was like … like a stream that drives a mill-wheel, I guess? If the circlet was the mill-wheel? It was power.” She wrinkled her forehead in thought. “I wonder if Nil’s magic wish used the amulet to get rid of the spirits, too,” she said. “That would make sense. Otherwise even a powerful dragon couldn’t cast out all of them. I don’t think. Anyway, without the magic source, the circlet can draw some dreams from the person who uses them, and I guess it helps when they’re all together, but really it can’t do much without some other magic or ritual or whatever. The scarab could probably keep you safe from some things, but maybe not everything? And the amulet can command what the circlet calls up, or whatever other spirits you find, but only up to a point. Only if you’re really certain of your selfhood.”

Yes, thought Gral. Certain.

“Then they can work to a point, but no more,” said Gryselde.

Gamelyn coughed slightly to draw her attention. “Most likely they will have power to the extent that their wielders do. The more we are caught up in Fell Gard, the more powerful those artifacts will prove. Or that is normally the way of things. And then, it is likely too that they will act themselves to catch us up. To draw us in. To make us worthy of them.”

“What should be done with them?” asked Gryselde.

Hochelaga stared at the sorine with the uncanny unblinking gaze that sometimes came upon her when she spoke of magic. “They’re not safe,” she stated. “No powerful magic ever is. But they may do more good than harm. Especially when we go deeper into the dungeon.”

Gryselde sighed. “Let everyone have what came to them, then. Return the amulet to Gral and the scarab to Ulixa, then, if they wish them. Keep the circlet. And we shall concern ourselves further with these things at a later time. For now we must decide Gral’s fate. Ulixa, you have heard what he said. There seems no debate about what happened. True?”

“Correct,” said Ulixa.

“Then we must find a punishment that is fitting,” said the sorine. “And I will say that in finding a punishment, I hope to find what will satisfy you, and allow you and Gral to live together in our House. While also serving as a warning to others, if needed. Gral, do you understand?”

Gral shrugged. “I did what I did,” he said. “It seemed right. Punish me as you must.”

Gryselde nodded. She looked around at the others. “Well, what punishments are there? What can we do to him? Ulixa, I hope you will agree that death is too severe. There is exile.”

“You threatened Diccon and the others with exile, if any of them betrayed us,” said William, uncomfortably. “Of course, we had only just taken them prisoner, and killed their friends.”

“Should we trust Gral more, then?” asked Gryselde. She sighed. “But you’re right. We set precedent at every hand.”

“You could make him be Ulixa’s servant, I guess,” said Hochelaga.

“Slavery?” murmured Gryselde. “Could she trust him?”

Gamelyn cleared his throat. “Slavery doesn’t really … work. In Fell Gard. As such.”

“How do you mean?” asked William.

“The nature of the place is that it’s magical,” said Gamelyn. “Magic tends to undermine structure, being by definition individual and unpredictable.” He took a breath. “In practice … the lower status a person has, the more likely it seems something will … happen. You know? Uncover a rusty sword that was a hero’s magic blade. Find a wishing ring stuck on the base of an old torch. Remove an enchanted thorn from under a beggar-man’s nail, and learn he’s actually a dragon … or demi-god … or king among elementals.” Gamelyn shook his head. “No, slavery does not on the whole work, in a place where such things occur. Someone always finds something.”

“Who does all the work that others don’t want to do?” said William.

Gamelyn shrugged. “Someone does them. Or someone finds magic to do them. Or they don’t get done.”

“Someone always finds something,” murmured Gryselde. “Ulixa. If we settle a fine on him; some indemnification — would that be just?”

“What would it be?” asked Ulixa.

Gryselde looked at Gral. He shrugged. “What I have, she is welcome to,” he said.

“Then I won’t take it now,” said Ulixa. She looked at Gryselde. “At some time in the future. Any one thing he has.” She turned to Gral. “I get to take something from you. Whatever I want, whenever I want it. Only once, but anything I wish.” She glanced back to Gryselde. “That would be fair.”

Gryselde considered this. Gral waited. “If magic and wonder come to us in the dungeon,” said Gryselde, “if that is what we will find there, then surely a fit punishment for any crime is to forfeit that magic. Therefore each breach of trust of which we are guilty will mean that we see so much more of our magic lost.” She nodded. “This seems just to me. Does anyone disagree?”

“Wait,” said Ulixa. “One more point. Yune must stand surety for Gral. The sentence means nothing much if Gral simply hides whatever he finds that I might want. I want Yune to tell me what treasures he discovers. And if he lies I take something from him, as well.”

“I will agree to that,” said Yune.

“And one final point,” said Ulixa. “Gral. I want you to tell me that you’re sorry for what you did.”

Gral shrugged. “I am sorry for what I did,” he said.

“And I want you to mean it,” said Ulixa.

“Wait,” said Yune. “I well understand what it is you feel. At my age, one endures many wrongs. Many, many wrongs … ah, but then that is what I ask you to understand. The age of we dwarves. Gral is young, he is a youth. Still, he is right now older than all you mortals would be if you lived out to the end of your given term; and if all your ages then were combined; and then if they were doubled — still he would be older by far than that.” Yune shook his head. “We learn not to apologise,” he said. “In lives that long, if once we give in to regret, we are forever lost.”

It was all true, and Gral found himself pondering that fact; and pondering why he pondered. He had chosen not to kill the cobold, before the altar of Father Stone. He had chosen not to kill Ulixa; and as a result there they all were, above the Abyss. He had not killed her, when he had good reasons — she was a thief of secrets, and a death was the price for initiation by Alkahest. For all that, he still had not killed Ulixa. And now, rather than accept that he had made his choice, he found himself pondering it, as though it was a riddle. Himself riddle to himself.

He realised that there were two ways to look at what he had done.

By letting the thief live, he had betrayed the mysteries of his order. He had allowed the secrets to be profaned; just as by letting the cobold live, rather than cleaning the altar with its blood, he had allowed the secrets of stone to be profaned. Which was to say: he had performed, if in miniature, that same crime that his father had. Had he set out upon that same path?

The other way to conceive what he had done was to say: his father had committed his betrayals, and hurt many people. By not killing when there was no absolute need, it seemed to Gral he was acting in a different manner than his father.

Was he, in the end, his father’s son or not? Who was he proving himself to?

Or was he his own creature, and his actions simply his own?

“Here,” he said aloud, to Ulixa. He unslung his pack from his back. He reached into it, and took out the fine tools he had found when he had explored the dungeon with Amanos and Geoffrey and the rest. “These are implements of the craft,” he said, “and they are cunningly-made.”

“They are,” said Ulixa. “They are perfect, that is so.”

(It occurred to Gral that his explanations for his actions, though true, also felt incomplete; as though there was some further riddle, something that he had not articulated to himself. Perhaps something that could not be articulated. Uneasily, he felt that there had been some change in himself in the past days; that if he as he now was had entered Fell Gard and found the amulet and demons, he would not do as he had then. This troubled him. To imagine himself a potential betrayer was one thing; to imagine himself as inconstant was another. If he could do otherwise than he had done, if he became some different person with the passage of mere time, then who was he, in truth? The person that he had been, or the person he had become, or the person he would yet be? What bound the one into the other? Was there any such thing as identity, beyond memory, and the words one used to describe one’s own actions? If he had changed from what he was, was he really anyone at at all?)

“Will you take them?” he asked.

“No,” said Ulixa. “You see, I am not a thief, not any longer. I am a dwimmerlaik.”

“What?” said Gamelyn. “Not that — I mean, you — that is … I see.”

“Then we will go back to the others,” said Gryselde, “and back to Innsdene, and I shall speak to Sir Hugh.” She sighed. “And I do not know where we shall go then. Deeper into Fell Gard.”

“That’s right,” said Ulixa, confused by herself. “I never told the rest of you, did I?”

“About what?” asked Gryselde.

“I spoke with Reprisal, after we found Innsdene. It didn’t want to speak much. I was … careful …” Ulixa sat. “Incredible,” she muttered. “It could have killed me at any moment. It could have … I thought I was being clever …”

“Ulixa,” said William. “What did Reprisal say to you?”

“Ah?” said Ulixa, starting. “Oh; yes. After a while … it told me the name of the wizard that had captured it.”

“Well, then?” said Gryselde.

Ulixa blinked. “Didn’t you hear? When we found Reprisal, it said that the wizard set his prison on the new court because he was able to shape the court — using one of the Fell Gard Codices. I know who he is. I know his name. I know who has one of the books we’re looking for.

The mortal thief — no, Gral reminded himself, the dwimmerlaik — shrugged. “All we have to do is find him.”


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