The Fell Gard Codices


Ulixa was more tired and frustrated than ever in her life. She had appointed watchers and scouts, and tried to prepare tactics, and nobody wanted to listen. No-one wanted to hear about hob-goblins returning, not after dragons and angels and all else. So she sat on the stoop of the inn, looking on the dust of the path winding from building to building, and was pestered by children wanting to know about whether her hair normally grew like that, and if the palms of her hands were paler than the rest of her because she’d used lye; and then also sitting in the town you heard every baby’s cry, and the hogs grunting or rooster crowing; and then also in the frenzy and relief of the dragon’s going, half the town had taken themselves to the forest for sex so shrieks and gasps occasionally could be heard even from where she was sitting.

In the end Ulixa decided to go to the church. One of the inn-girls had told her that the canons of Secga were staging a Demonstration there. Might as well watch other people yell at one another for a while, she thought. And if a hob-goblin army comes to kill us … there we’ll all be, waiting.

She had just decided this, and stood to go, when Gamelyn came around the corner of the building. “There you are,” he said.

“Did you need something?” asked Ulixa. “Or were you volunteering to defend us against hob-goblins?”

“Neither,” he said. “It’s time to begin your lessons, novice. Come; we’ll walk a way through the woods.”

Ulixa sighed. “Gamelyn, I have concerns —”

“That wasn’t a request, novice,” he said. “Come and learn, as you have sworn.” He set off toward the woods; toward the moans and frenzy.

She wondered if it was deliberate; a test. Would he do such a thing, with so many lives in danger?

Perhaps. Either way, test or no test, this was the teaching she had wanted.

She set out after him.


“A canon is typically a priest that lives subject to a rule of conduct, and has certain specific tasks,” said William. “Sometimes, a religious body needs laymen to perform some task or other. They are made lay canons. Secga of the Tongues is notable for the number of lay canons he has. Many are advocates, who argue points of law, or professors who teach others.”

“All right,” whispered Kezia, beside him, “but what are these ones doing?”

They were sitting against the wall of the stone church, in the Ring of Holly. William knew the great action would be seen there. Scattered around, watching, were villagers and others. John of the Inner Book sat quietly across from him. The ætheric light was bolstered by candles, one in the Oak Ring and five in the Holly Ring.

“A Demonstration is a kind of spectacle, when lay canons set their learning against each other,” William told the older man, Osbert. “One of them has to defend some obvious statement, such as ‘the earth is the centre of the universe.’ This one is ‘that magic may bond with the principle of cold.’ The other have to use every rhetorical trick to try to argue him away from the truth.”

“How do they know who wins?” asked Kezia.

“Mostly there’s a set time for the arguing,” said William. “Along with rules about who speaks when, and such. Sometimes it’s by the acclamation of a crowd, if there is one. And sometimes one side or another gives in and agrees with their opponents. That is rarest, but most dramatic, and there are stories of Demonstrations that have gone on days or weeks before one side or another gave in.” Kezia nodded, staring distantly as the lay canons took their places. “Kezia,” William said, uncomfortable, “there was something —”

“When Enheduanna was under the lake,” said Kezia, “did she say anything about what lay to the north-west of the elven homes?”

“What?” said William. “No … we haven’t had time to speak much of that. I — she said she hadn’t seen much, that she was kept under guard as they tried to understand what to make of her. Kezia. When you die, your kind … do you remember loves, in later lives?”

“Of course,” she said. “Hates tend to fade, with time. Loves … though the body has a say in it, of course.”

“What?” said William. There was a hush around him, and then whispers. Was the demonstration beginning? “What do you mean?” he whispered. No. Kate and the two hob-goblins had come into the church.

“Lovers may be born into bodies that don’t desire one another,” said Kezia. “That will change the nature of love. I must go, William.” She smiled. She wasn’t very like Enheduanna, William thought.

“What do you mean —” he began, but Kate was tugging at his tunic. He turned to look at her.

“Where’s Yune?” Kate asked. “I want his help.”

“He said something about visiting that sage,” said William. “The one in the tower.” He looked back up; Kezia was leaving. Kate said a few words in a language William did not know to the hob-goblins, and they followed her out. William sighed and sat back.

The Demonstration was starting.


“The first lesson,” Gamelyn said, “is about what a dwimmerlaik is.”

They were by the waterfront, on the rock where Nil’s fires still flickered. Someone was gasping behind them. Ulixa tried to ignore it, and concentrated on her reflection, as he’d asked.

Dwimmerlaik is a word given us by the folk you call the Vættir,” he said. “It means, roughly, ‘magic-using phantom.’ To the Vættir we weren’t human. We took the word, a label of contempt, and used it as a badge of pride. There is a lesson there in the subversion of meaning. I will allow you the dignity of working it out for yourself.”

“Why did the Vættir hate the dwimmerlaiks so much?” she asked. He didn’t answer. In the water she saw him smile, and look expectantly at her. The shadows of his face were lengthened by the pale fire. She didn’t know what he wanted.

“And the dwimmerlaiks are?” he asked. For a moment she was confused.

“Us,” she said. “Why did they hate us so much.”

He nodded. “A good question,” he said. His smile grew. She realised he wouldn’t answer it.

This is going to be very frustrating, she thought. Perhaps that was the point.


Theda reached out to knock on Yllaria’s door. Elous squeezed her other hand as she did, and Theda almost laughed (gods, she thought, I almost giggled).

“Someone’s coming,” said Elous. Theda looked back to see three little monsters approaching under the pines.

The sage’s door opened. Yllaria’s silver-maned head stuck out. “Oh, more of you,” she said.

“We came, I came, to thank you,” said Theda.

Yllaria smiled. “That’s very nice,” she said. “But I didn’t mean you, dear.”

“Hello!” cried one of the monsters. “Is Yune here?”

Yllaria’s smile grew smaller, but steadier. “Why don’t you all come in?” she said. “Join the discussion.” She opened her door. Theda, a little surprised and intimidated — conscious of her own lack of wisdom — pulled Elous in. The monsters followed. And inside —

Inside were other monsters. A little man in a cloak. The dwarf, the clockmaster. A goblin. The boy who wasn’t the Good Boy — the angel. All of them had cups and saucers of some kind of white pottery Theda had never seen before, decorated with fine blue inks. Steam rose from the cups.

“Would you like some t?” asked the sage.

“I, I beg your pardon?” asked Theda.

“T,” said Yllaria. “To drink?”

“How do you drink a letter?” Theda asked, confounded. The dwarf’s face split in a grin.

“Which is the problem,” said Yllaria. “One person won’t understand the elements someone else takes for granted. Which is why it’s important to talk it all out. T, dear, is an herb that makes a hot drink, on another continent. I have some myself, in my garden. Would you like to try a cup?”

“I suppose?” said Theda.

“What’s a continent?” asked Elous.

“Mistress sage, can you help me talk with the hob-goblins?” asked one of the new monsters.

Yllaria sighed. “Why don’t you have seats,” she said. “Everyone in a circle. Let us see what we can learn.”


Kezia came to the shore, Spyrling behind her. She looked up and down. Two mortals were staring at their own reflections some distance away. No-one seemed to notice them.

“What is it?” said Spyrling. “What are we doing?”

“There is something I must know,” said Kezia. “If I don’t come back in an hour or so, tell Entemena I have gone underwater, to the north-west.”

“And?” said Spyrling.

“That’s all,” she said. “This is an elf matter.” She smiled at him; and stepped into the water. The dragon-fire not far away cast a shadow before her.

“Wait,” said Spyrling. “You think there’s — is it dangerous, like?”

“I don’t know,” Kezia said.

She slipped under the surface of the water.


“Let’s see what we agree on,” said the youngest canon, calmly. He stood in the centre of the Ring of Holly. Four of his colleagues bowed their heads and deferred to him. Their lone opponent, the old man named Baldwin, standing in the Ring of Oak near his one candle candle, glared at them all. The young one’s playing to the gallery, thought William. But in Demonstration all things were fair.

“There are four principles,” said the young one, “hot and cold, wet and dry. True?”

“True,” Baldwin admitted. That also was key: get your opponent to agree with you, and get him to capitulate on whatever you could.

“All the elements are made of these principles,” said the young one, who was nearly twice William’s age. “Water is cold and wet, earth is cold and dry, air is wet and hot, fire dry and hot. True again?”

“Any fool knows all this,” snapped Baldwin. There were whispers in the crowd. Baldwin’s playing into their hands, thought William. Most of the crowd hadn’t known it at all, being townsfolk and such; and Baldwin’s opponents were getting the room behind them. Such things shouldn’t matter, but very often somehow did.

“If you will,” said the young one, almost sadly — George, that was his name. “The most important principle is magic. True?”

“Your terminology is imprecise,” snapped Baldwin.

“There is authority —” yelled one of the others back to him; and Baldwin began to shout; and then everything became shouting for a moment.

William sighed, and kept trying not to think of Enheduanna, and what Kezia had said.


“The second lesson,” said Gamelyn, “is that magic is only a part of an illusion. Do you understand?”

“You use a little magic to make it look like you use more?” Ulixa asked. They had stepped away from the water, among the grunts and gasps of the forest. Gamelyn didn’t seem to notice.

“Or no magic at all,” he said. “Words and deception.”

“Like … redefining dwimmerlaik?” she asked. Gamelyn smiled. “Why are we talking about this now?”

“Who can say if we will have time later?” he asked. “The thing to understand is that illusion is more than magic. To become a dwimmerlaik, to master illusion, you must understand codes and symbols and signals. So it will be some time before you can wave your hands and mutter a few words and do as I do, become invisible, or what you like.”

“Unless … I trick you into giving me that knowledge?” she asked.

“That will be impossible,” he said, and smiled. Someone shrieked.

“Well, what are these codes?” she asked.

He did not answer, but waved her on into the forest.


Yune took a sip of his drink. He tasted a mild astringency. The study around him had a genteel clutter; inks and papers on a sturdy desk, books in piles on the floor, an abacus shoved into an out-of-the-way corner. The smell of a garden was nearby, vaguely unpleasant to him. There was no table before him, and they were all sitting in a circle, on chairs that were meant for mortals. He was to one side of the sage. Hodekin to the other. There, that was the problem he wanted to get at.

“Why don’t we go around the room,” said the sage. “One by one, and introduce ourselves. If you all will tell us your name, and why you’re here, what you would like to know, and, oh, let’s say one other thing about yourself that you would like to tell us … that should be a fine start.” She nodded to one of the girls that had just come in. “Theda?”

“I’m Theda,” said the girl promptly. “I came to thank you, Yllaria, because you gave me a charm that brought me Elous. What I would like to know … I didn’t know I wanted to know anything until I got here. But now I’d like to know what else we should do … I mean where we should go. Together. What else? Oh, one more thing about myself. Um. I always wanted to leave Innsdene.” She nodded to Elous, beside her.

“I’m Elous,” said the other girl, quietly. “I came to thank you too. I wanted to know — I wanted to know who you were, that had brought us together.”

Yllaria chuckled. “I suppose I’m what you see,” she said. “And one thing about yourself?”

“I have always been in the dungeon,” whispered Elous. “I have always wanted to get out.”

“My turn?” said Yune. “Well, lady, I’m a clockmaster.” Leave it at that for now.

“Oh, don’t just tell me,” said the sage. She waved to the circle. “You can tell everyone.” Yune looked around at them all, smiling. “Well, as to why I’m here, I had spoken with Hodekin, and the darkling there —” he nodded his head to the cloaked figure “— and I was trying to understand first one, then another. As we spoke, Paradox came to us, where we sat in the inn-room, you call it. This was just after the two parties had set out, and Paradox seemed upset he was not with them. It was the woman Peg who said that we should all go to you, and that you would help us to talk to each other. Are you a scholar of languages? Do you know Ibia?”

“I know a little,” said Yllaria. “But I don’t think that’s what she meant.”

“It was Peg who said we should come to you, too!” said Kate.

Yllaria nodded, as though tired. “I don’t know Ibia,” said Theda. “How will we understand … them?”

The sage looked around. “Do you all understand her?”

“Yes,” said one of the hob-goblins. The male. “I understand. Now.”

“Yes,” said Hodekin.

Elous gasped. Yune, though, had expected something like that. The first step, he thought, toward not being a fool was to assume that other people were also not fools. He wondered whether the sage understood something he did not. He looked across at Hodekin, whose face was still. Well, Yune thought. We will see what comes out of this, foolish or not.


Kezia swam downward, fighting her body’s natural buoyancy. Ahead of her some of Ithream’s folk were swimming toward her; three women. She waved to them to go back. “I’ve come for a swim,” she said.

“We shall accompany you, then,” said one of them. They had armour like fishes’ scales, and long spears with stone points.

“I need no accompaniment,” she told them, and kept on her way. North-west. She thought she saw, now, an opening in the rock. Yes; there was a shelf that jutted out before it and above, so she had not noticed it before, but —

“Ithream will wish to speak with you,” said the woman.

“I will speak with him when I please,” she said. “I am a vala, and kings must wait on my word.”

“That way is forbidden!” cried another of the women. “You must go no further!”

“Who are you to say what I may or may not do?” she asked her. They swam toward her. “Arms against a vala!” she cried. “Madness!”

She swept her arm through the water.

The weeds at the bottom of the lake snapped upright and uncoiled. And more of them grew, and all of them reached up to grab at the limbs of the swimming elves. In moments they had been caught tight.

Kezia swam on toward the curious passage through the rock. Behind her the women she had caught cried out to her not to go; but she ignored them.

Who were they, to speak so to a vala?


“Magic and the wet principle makes æther,” said George. “Magic and dryness makes shadow, the mask of Our Lord Secga. Magic and the hot principle makes ink, the blood of magic. All true?”

True, thought William. Where was the young one going?

“That is all the world there is,” agreed Baldwin. “The four lower elements, and the three higher.”

“And where is the symmetry in that?” asked another of the five opposing him. “Is symmetry not a sign of perfection? Why then should there be fewer of the higher elements than the lower?”

“Symmetry is not natural to magic,” said Baldwin. “Magic is incompatible with the essence of coldness, therefore there can be no eighth element.”

“Do you know all the secrets of magic?” asked George suddenly.

Ah, thought William.

“I will not make that claim,” said Baldwin.

“Then you cannot know,” said George.

“I know that certain things are too great to remain unknown,” said Baldwin, “given the knowing of certain other things.”

William thought again of Enheduanna, and her love, and that strange Iron Elf. He remembered her running after the elf. He remembered chasing her, with the torch, and running into a room where he was attacked by witherlings —

Too great to remain unknown, he thought.


“The next lesson,” said Gamelyn, “is to always be afraid.”

She laughed. “You’re joking.”

“What do you think you know?” asked Gamelyn. “About me. About dwimmerlaiks. About anything.”

“Perhaps not as much as I thought,” she answered carefully. Gamelyn nodded. He pointed to a tree. “What’s that?” he asked.

“A pine tree,” Ulixa said. He nodded, and moved his hand: go on. “It’s, ah, forty feet tall. It has wide branches. It is very green, and its needles are fresh. There, ah, there seem to be people … ah … having intercourse underneath it.”

“Now,” said Gamelyn. “What if it wasn’t what you see?” He looked at her. She looked from the tree to him.

“You mean … if you set an illusion on it, to make it something else?” she asked.

“What if it were always something else?” he asked. “A dragon, bound by a wizard, into the shape of a tree. That wizard’s gravestone. The castle built on top of the gravestone.”

“But it’s not,” she said. “It’s … it’s a tree.”

“How do you know?” he said. “By your senses? They can deceive you. Didn’t you know that? — Or is it a story of the world that you’ve told yourself, that this is merely a tree, and not a dragon? Why then should you believe yourself? Anything you know could be something other than you think. What you believe may be lying to you. Be afraid, then, of all that you think is true.”

“You mean that the tree could be anything,” she said slowly. “That it is impossible to know … then, yes, you’re right. It could be a dragon. A castle.”

“Don’t be absurd,” he said, disappointed. “It’s just a tree.”


“My name is Kate,” she said, “and I am a princess, which is the one thing about me, and I am here because I want to be better able to talk to Robin and Robyn, and also the thing I want to know is, will the hob-goblins in their city attack us all.” She sat back.

“Very well,” said the sage.

“Also what did the frightjack do to Robin, I want to know that,” she added.

“Why don’t we let him tell us, if he wants to?” suggested the sage, which Kate guessed was probably wise of her.

The girl Robyn nodded. “We are both named Robin,” she said, “as is the way of our kind. One true thing about me is that I was saved by Kate. One true thing about my brother is that the evil counsellor to our queen did things to him, to make him more frightful. He would like to know what that is. I would like to know how to kill him. We are both here because Kate has led us, and we think she is wise.” Kate smiled at that.

The sage nodded, as mortals do. “And what do you say?” she asked Robyn’s brother.

Robin shook his head, and stared at her. After a long moment Robyn took his hand and patted it. Still he did not respond.


Kezia swam through the darkness. Here and there shafts of ætheric light showed her the way. There were cracks in the rock, she realised, leading back to the Innsdene cave. There were other tunnels, perhaps some large enough to swim through. And ahead of her?

More light. From a different angle. The tunnel was leading her somewhere beyond the Innsdene cave.

The waters were still, as she moved through them. Sounds were strangely magnified, even more than was normal under the surface. She went on ahead, north and west.

Before long the tunnel opened out. There seemed to be another large cave before her. Ætheric light shone down from above. The ground rose before her, making some shore or island at the centre of the cave.

She began to swim forward. As she did, skeletal hands arose out of the silt at the lake bottom.


“If the only way to prove your point is to attack the idea of knowledge itself,” said Baldwin, “then you’ve already lost! Ha!”

Two or three of his opponents in the debate cried “Nay!” while George said: “Let us see what else there is to say, then. Surely, you would not say that all things are true. Well, then, some things must be false. We are here to separate true from false.”

William stirred. In a song, you knew what the singer told you. That was true. If the poet erred, then the poem was not false, but a bad poem. The voice of a poem could err or tell lies within the givens of a poem, he supposed. But what would be the point of that? The point was: he wondered whether debate on perceived truth had any meaning at all, or was it wiser to trust in felt truth? What could be said in words was a lie; what could not was undebatable. Noscere and scire, the Invicti would say. The duty of the poet was to use words to say what could not be said.

And what then of elves, who were creatures all of poetry and song?


“Here is a lesson,” said Gamelyn. She almost didn’t hear him; the people around them were so loud. The smell of them was uncomfortably present.

“The brain,” he said, “sits in the skull, and it is connected to the body in many ways. Well, it is a part of the body; of course it is connected. There is a cord down the spine. There are nerves, that reach to the eyes, to the senses. The senses are the guards of king brain. They are its servants, its councillors.

“And, like guards, servants, and councillors, they will lie; they will tell their lord what that lord wants to hear. What then can you be sure of?”

She almost said “nothing,” but then thought more carefully. She reached out to his robe. “The sign,” she said. “The extended triangle.”

“The ox-head, we call it,” said Gamelyn. “You are some way from wearing it yet.”

“It’s the sign of a dwimmerlaik,” she said. “I know that. Every one of … us … must wear it. Must show it. If you can see it.”

“Is that true?” asked Gamelyn. “Or is it only what we have led people to believe, so that we can then go around without it and have no-one suspect us?”

To that she had no answer.


“I have no name,” said the darkling. He couldn’t speak above a whisper since that was not the way he was made, and also he took a sip of the odd liquid before him, and the liquid had a taste, which taste was a thing he was coming to understand.

“We have no names as who needs names,” he said. “We are a part of, a part of, I am not a part of it now.” He lifted his shoulders which was a shrug.

“It’s all right,” said Yllaria who was a woman and a sage. “You don’t have to explain everything at once.”

He bent forward, eagerly. “A thing, a thing about me is that it was the cup or so it began, then the light and also the war and also I think the jack has released me or something in me. Words words words. I can talk because I have something to say.”

“It’s all like that,” said the dwarf who also was Yune. “Exhausting.”

“You poor thing,” said Elous. “You’ve lived your life and only now started to talk.”

He nodded his head up and down very quickly because to him she had said something that was very true.

“But if you’re changing from what you were,” said the boy who was an angel and paradox, “what are you now?”

He did not know what to say to that.

“Why I am here for is to find out what I am becoming,” he said. “And that is what I want to know.” He stopped talking then and drank, and he did not understand why the same opening was used for speaking and ingesting, out and in, but then also there was merit, he thought, as he listened, in silence, and so for a time he said or whispered nothing more.


Whole skeletons arose. Elves, long dead. Kezia swam up, trying to get away from them. They chased.

There were no weeds under the water there for her to use. There was nothing living at all.

The island, she thought. Maybe there.

She swam as fast as she could. The skeletons were slower; they were lighter, but had no flesh to catch at the water.

The ground arose beneath her, sharply, until she could reach out and touch it. She paused, and looked back. There were half-a-dozen skeletons. Could she lure them all on to the island? Then make a run around them?

She swam on, then took a step, rising out of the water. She gasped, surprised.

She was looking at a small forest, on an island that had to be over a hundred feet across.

She ran up out of the lake onto a beach of white sand. She turned back, and raised a hand —

Nothing happened.

She waited.

The skeletons did not come out of the water.

Above, pale ætheric light shone. The cave was silent, with faint echoes from the waters lapping at the shore.


The canons were discussing the nature of magic. William found himself listening with half an ear.

He could not stop himself from thinking of the nature of elven love. Love across lives. Across centuries. For — how long?

There was a legend, he knew, that the names the elves used among mortals had been given them by the Dawn Kings, at the beginning of time. Thousands of years ago.

He had known Enheduanna four days. How long had the other elf known her? How long had he been waiting for her?

William thought it made for a grand story. Love and death, over and over.

What then of his own story, and hers?

George said: “Elements cannot be destroyed, but they do change, one into another.”

The same, William knew, was true of stories.


“Wait,” said Ulixa. A man and a woman scurried by them, hiding their faces. She didn’t care. Gamelyn leaned back against a tree trunk, among spreading branches, and smiled, staring at her.

“What you said about the Vættir,” she said. “You mean — you knew about the empires of the outer world, before I told you?”

“I could answer that,” said Gamelyn.

She waited. “Then do so,” she suggested.

“How would you know it wasn’t an illusion?” he asked.

“Is an illusion necessarily a lie?” she asked.

He smiled.

“How many other lies have you told us?” she wanted to know. “How many have you told me?

He stopped smiling. “That is what you have sworn oaths to find out, novice,” he told her. “You can’t truly lie until you’re sure you’re not actually telling the truth. Can you?”


“My name is Paradox,” he said. “One thing about me — I should have gone with the others.” He drank the tea. Too much; it was hot, it burned him. He wasn’t used to drinking, to being wary. To the way food and drink could be painful, or hurtful. The tea tasted bitter.

“Why do you think that?” asked the sage.

“It’s my,” he started, and then realised it wasn’t really his responsiobility any more, and he said “I could have,” and then he wondered what he could have done, really.

“Could you have been a help to them, really?” she asked.

“I’ve changed,” he whispered.

“We all change,” she said.

“Yes,” he said. “All us mortals.” He laughed. “The reason I am here. The thing I would like to know.” He looked around at them all. “I don’t know why I’m here,” he said, “and that is what I want to know.”


Kezia made her way up from the sand to a path leading under the trees. Maple and oak as well as pine, she saw. All of them thick, in good health. The underbrush was thick as well. When she stepped under the trees it grew very dark.

She went on step by step, listening as she went. There were no birds. No bats. Nothing rustled — no, there was something. Ahead of her?

She paused. Had the skeletons come ashore on the far side of the island? She stared into the darkness. She heard no more sounds.

Kezia started forward again. Ahead of her she could see light shining down; she quickened her steps.

She came out into a clearing with a pit at the centre, a wide fountain or pool. Stone columns had fallen all about it. Worked columns. There was an altar on the far side of the pool. This was a temple, once, she thought.

She stepped up to the pool, and dropped to one knee beside it. She tasted the water. It was salt, like the legendary sunless sea. More. There was magic in it, she was sure.

Across the pool, near the altar, a shadow moved.


The canons were arguing now about knowing, and whether one knew or only remembered that they knew. George argued for remembrance. Baldwin, for absolute knowledge.

William remembered what Enheduanna had said to him: the imperfectability of memory was the curse of the elf-folk. Or had it been those words? Something of that sort.

Something of that sort. It had been days. What would he remember, across years?

He stood, feeling tears behind his eyes, and made his way to the door.


“The last lesson for today,” said Gamelyn. “Do not trust your senses.”

“I think I have learned that,” said Ulixa.

“Close your eyes,” he said. “Close them. Good. Now. What do you know, about what is around you? Listen. Feel.”

She did. They were in a grove in the forest. There were men and women still grunting around them, and whining. No, they were not loud. Not as loud as she had thought. She could smell them, though, if faintly. The forest smell was stronger. Pine. She had never thought of it as a durable, everlasting smell; but it was, lasting out winters and nights and the ages of the world. Stronger than the smell of sex. She felt the cool air. She tasted —

Gamelyn was pressed up against her, behind her, his hands on her face. He slipped something between her lips. Fruit. It was sweet. He held her tight, his arms around her. She could feel his erection grinding against her buttock. “Now,” he said. “Tell me what you want.”

She wanted —

Her eyes snapped open. She took a step away. He opened his arms easily. She turned to look back at him. “No,” she said, voice trembling. His face was blank. He expected that, she thought.

“Think on all this,” he said, turning away. “We’ll talk more later.”

She watched him go. What did he mean by that? she thought. What did he mean I should know? What I wanted, or didn’t want?

“All this knowing,” she shouted at him. “It means nothing! You never know anything absolutely! That is not how you know! All you taught today is pointless! You know only when you are not certain!”

Which she knew, because her father had taught her; and which, she realised, in an intuitive insight, had been Gamelyn’s point all along.

“You,” she said, “you —” She ran forward, ran up to him; as he turned his head, she realised she could not stand to speak with him, and ran on.

It seemed to her that it would be a more involved thing than she had thought, to be a dwimmerlaik.


“My name is Hodekin,” said the goblin. He took another sip. The tea was brackish and over-sweet. “I am here because I do not know who to trust. I can’t tell which of you is strongest. You are wise, therefore perhaps you will know, since the wise must attend to such things or else perhaps find their wisdom cut off.”

“I wonder,” murmured the sage. “If we might mean different things by wisdom.”

Hodekin tilted his head on the side and looked at her. He would test her and see who was strongest. “I would like to know,” he said, “what you have in the tower.”

“I beg your pardon,” she said, surprised.

“What you did not want your kind to know about,” he said. “Why you would not let archers up above.”

The sage nodded. “Astronomical observations,” she said. “Do you know what those are?”

“I have heard of the sky,” said Hodekin. “Why did you hide them?”

Yllaria sighed. “Many of my kind believe that the gods live in the sky,” she said. “Among moons and planets. The kind of close study that I do is forbidden.”

Hodekin nodded. “You do not believe in gods? Or do you believe you are stronger than them?”

“Well, what do you mean by gods?” she asked. “Powerful entities that give people who worship them power. But what does that mean? Do we lose more by worship than we gain  back from them?”

“I don’t understand,” said Kate. “Hodekin, who are you?” The dwarf watched him carefully.

“One thing about myself,” said Hodekin. “I was held prisoner by a wizard. I don’t know why.”

That was all he had to say.

For the moment.


“Who are you?” Kezia cried out. The shadow froze. “Come forward,” she ordered. It did.

She saw a mortal man, in leather armour. He had a dirk by his side. He was short, even for mortals, and skinny, with a nose like a triangle. There were hollows in his cheeks. His dark hair rose in tufts of curls. “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am a vala,” she said. “A priestess among the elves.”

“This your temple, then?” he asked.

“No,” she said.

“And have you come to let me leave?” he asked.

She shook her head. “What?” He said nothing, but stared at her. “How long have you been here?” she asked.

He shrugged. “A few watches now, I think.” Watches; not days. He was born to the dungeon.

“Ithream’s people are keeping you prisoner,” she said. “Why?”

He stared at her, and did not answer.

She turned —

Behind her were two more of them, a mortal man and an elf woman. They grabbed her as she began to run.

“No,” said the woman. “Let’s find out a little more of what you know.”


William closed the church door behind him. He heard Ranulf shouting at Anselm, through the clay wall of their cottage. He sighed and started north, looking around him as he went.

He saw Ulixa come dashing out of the forest. A little bit behind her, more calmly, came Gamelyn. He wondered if they’d gone to the woods for an assignation, as many folk had seemed to. None of his concern, if so, he supposed.

For lack of anywhere better to go he joined the watchers at the north entrance. Where he had betrayed them, earlier that day. He still had heard nothing from Hugh, or Gryselde. Kwangrolar watched him come; the elves, Sabium and Etana, stared out into the darkness. The earth elemental, Stratum, gave him a wave.

William sat by him. “Decided to stay?” he asked.

“For the moment,” said the little man. “Truth is —”

They were interrupted by a call from Sabium. “One comes,” he said. “A hob-goblin. He bears a flag of truce.”

William stood. “Ulixa!” he called.

The Morien woman arrived at about the same time as the hob-goblin, moving very cautiously, entered the cave. William and the elves had their swords out.

“What’s this?” asked Ulixa.

The hob-goblin began to talk.

“He says he’s come as an ambassador,” said Stratum. “He says he’s been told to negotiate the disposition of the prisoners they’ve taken. And he says — he says he has come to demand your help, against the great enemy.” He looked at them. “He says he wants peace,” said Stratum.

The hob-goblin grinned. “What prisoners?” asked William. Stratum asked the hob-goblin; the hob-goblin answered.

“A girl monastic,” said Stratum. “A cobold. And … an elf-woman.”

Ulixa sighed. “Let’s talk,” she said.

“Yes,” said William. “And then I will take the terms back, along with the hob-goblin.”

“It could be a trick,” Ulixa warned him.

He nodded. “I will know what the truth of it is, either way,” he said.

“How can you know anything?” Ulixa asked. He stared at her. She sighed. “Let’s go,” she told them all. “To the inn. It seems we have much talking to do.”


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