The Fell Gard Codices


For the first time in what seemed like a very long while, Hochelaga felt happy. The fruit had been wonderful, and people were laughing. They had someplace they could think of as a home, now, not just empty stone rooms where they slept on their cloaks. Light, too, which felt like Monelic’s light on a springtime evening. It seemed an empty sort of night without the other six moons shining, but still, it was pleasant. Hochelaga laughed, for no real reason. They’d all survived, all of them in both groups, and here they all were together.

Here, where Gryselde had said they would build a House. That would be fun, Hochelaga thought. She looked around at all the new folk. Who were they? Could they be trusted? Maybe they knew secret things. Maybe they were hiding plans.

But when could you ever really sure of the people around you? Hochelaga was tired of being afraid, and anyway it didn’t make sense to be afraid of the people around her when the dungeon was so much bigger and scarier than any of them could be — big enough, after all, to hold all of them inside it. She decided that it was time to relax. She smiled, and had another plum.


Tilde looked over her shoulder. “Come on, Mew,” urged Kezia, grabbing the little man by the scruff of the neck and pulling him down the hall. Tilde wanted a drink. Which was to say that she was still alive, though she was bleeding from a few places. Sadly, Kezia had no more healing in her.

Mew squawked as he tried to stay upright. “I can’t,” he gasped. “No. Gods and devils, Kezia, you’re not mortal, you don’t know.”

“Tilde’s mortal,” said Kezia.

She’s not wounded,” said Mew, waving his broken arm before her.

“Yes, she is,” Tilde called back. “Very wounded at how you’re making mortals look weak before an elf.” She belched. The truth was that they were all hurt, but so what? Given what was after them, they had two choices: go on, or die. Of course we’re pushing ourselves to the edge, she thought; what else is there to do? Then she realised that her thought was literally true. “We’ve reached the Abyss,” she called to the other two. “So. We can go up.”

“There’s a new court, above,” said Kezia. “Maybe … I don’t know.”

Kezia and Mew joined Tilde, where the grey stone of the hall ended at white marble. Stairs stretched upward at the right hand and the left. Angelic statues looked down at them, mourning, considering. Mew sobbed a little to himself. Tilde looked back. Of course there were no torches on the wall, only the one she held, and so she saw merely the dark mouth of a hall. Somewhere, back there … she shuddered. “Well, no time to think,” she said cheerfully. “Up we go, then, and hope they don’t follow.”

“They’ll follow,” said Mew. “Why wouldn’t they follow?” The elf let him go and he sprawled on the marble portico.

“A’right, they’ll follow,” Tilde agreed drunkenly. “So we die a little later than now.”

“I want to die now,” Mew told her, his face pressed to the stone, his voice muffled.

“Suit yourself,” Tilde said. “But if we survive, we’re going to laugh at you.” She laughed right then. It wasn’t as though there was much else to do. Other than climb stairs. She sighed, and started up. Kezia came after her. A few seconds later, when he saw they were serious, Mew picked himself up and followed them.

Tilde did not think about what was at their heels. Only where they were going: a new court, full of uncertainties. Of possibilities.

If they reached it.


“A song!” cried Geoffrey. “A song, with our supper! Or a tale!” Hochelaga laughed. So did a few other people. Geoffrey was grinning himself.

“We should all tell our tales,” said Gryselde, returning to them, Diccon trailing behind her. “There are new faces among us.”

William stood and bowed. “By your leave, Sorine,” he said. “This is my profession; let me tell what I can, as best I know, and then let the others speak.”

Hochelaga sat back and relaxed as William began to recount their story, beginning when they had woken in Fell Gard. Much of it of course she had lived herself; but he spoke well, and she was not bored. She twitched her feet back and forth in front of her. She wondered if maybe life in Fell Gard would be pleasant after all.

William promised to tell of how they had come to the forest chamber in which they now sat, and spoke then of the day’s exploring: of Ulric struck blind, of Gamelyn confronted with a riddle, of how they all found the sylphs, and many other things. When he reached the point where Gamelyn gave the riddle’s answer the dwimmerlaik interrupted: “Now, would any of you like to guess what I said?” he asked, looking around at them all.

“It was an impossible answer to guess,” Enheduanna assured them.

“It is the worst cheat of a riddle that I have ever heard in my life,” agreed William.

Hochelaga said: “The answer is a cross, that shines with its own light, set on a mountain over a city on an island. It is the symbol of a god that became a man and was crucified. But the shining cross is there on the mountain because it recalls a cross that was placed on the mountain by the man that founded the city. Also, it waits for death because when the high priest of that god dies, the cross is made to shine with purple light.”

They all were silent, staring at her.

“It’s the city in my dreams,” said Hochelaga.

“You’ve … seen it, then,” said Gamelyn. Hochelaga nodded.

“It has been said of that city that you can’t throw a stone there without breaking a church window,” she told him. “I never knew what that meant. I guess the church windows are all made of glass. The priests must be very, very rich.”

“Who said that, about the windows?” asked William.

Hochelaga shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “It was in a dream I had. But listen. I saw the city more recently, too. Well, go on. I’ll tell when you’re done.”

William began to speak again. Hochelaga thought he sounded less sure. She didn’t know why.


Tilde began to laugh. She didn’t know why. Maybe it was because she was going to die, and she was drunk, and so was dead drunk either way.

“What’s funny?” gasped Mew. “I didn’t even say anything.”

“Wasn’t laughing at you,” said Tilde. “Just … lots of stairs.” She took a swig from her wineskin.

“Aw,” said Mew. “I want some.”

“Oh, well,” said Tilde. “Catch.” She tossed him the skin.

“Are you sure now’s the time?” asked Kezia. The elf was hardly breathing hard. Tilde smiled. I’m too old for this, she thought.

Mew squawked. “It’s empty!” he said.

“I know,” said Tilde. She began to laugh. “I’ve got … got to get some more.” It was too funny. She had to sit down. She felt Kezia touching her.

“Your wounds have opened again,” said the elf. “Mew?”

“I’ve got nothing left,” said the little priest, gasping. Tilde squinted at him. Not thirty and he was balding. He was so serious, and thought he was so worldly-wise and cynical. She laughed again.

“Tilde,” said Kezia. She was very serious, too, but not funny. “Tilde. They’re coming. I can hear them. They’re all together; their master is keeping them close. I guess we did enough damage that he doesn’t want to take any more chances.”

“More fool he,” said Mew. “I couldn’t … fight a rat.”

“But, however slowly, they are coming,” said Kezia. “Tilde. I know you have to rest. So does Mew. But there’s no time now.”

Tilde nodded her head. Too hard, too quickly. “Help me up,” she gasped. “How many stairs d’you think are left?”

“We started on the fifteenth court,” said Kezia. “The new one would be the twentieth. We just passed the sixteenth.”

“A lot, is what you’re saying,” said Tilde. She took a deep breath. Mew gave a whine with no words. “Let’s go. I’ve had too many people die on me, Kezia. Too many. I don’t want … oh, who cares what I want. Help me up.”

The elf lifted her to her feet. They went on, up the long stairs. Tilde imagined she could hear the wordless things behind her, and shuddered. She wished she had more to drink.

There’d be more later. Or else they’d all be dead.


After William had spoken, Amanos and Domini left the room for a bit. Domini explained that they were going to find fallen branches and such to prop up against the one door that led to the wide steps down to the darklings and the nightjack. Amanos didn’t seem very happy.

Yune ended up doing the telling of what had happened while Gryselde and the rest had been away. He didn’t know it all, of course, and Hochelaga had to explain her own part. Gamelyn, Diccon, Agneta, Elous, and Wymarc were fascinated. “The heart of Fell Gard,” muttered Gamelyn once. William seemed more interested by the one-eyed man. And Geoffrey sighed when he heard what had happened to Bohemond.

“He was a hard man and wicked,” said Geoffrey. “But nobody deserves that, I think. Ha! Reason enough not to play with your devils.” He lay back and looked up at the moon — the ætheric moss, Hochelaga reminded herself — as she went on. She ended by showing them Concordia Salus, once she convinced the familiar spirit to show herself. The cat glared around at them all. Ulixa punched Gamelyn lightly in the arm.

“I told you,” she said.

After Hochelaga had finished, Yune continued, and gave the rest of their story. Domini sat with her arm around Kate, their heads bowed. “I’ll figure out how to change her back,” Hochelaga promised them again. “I swear it.”

“You may not have to,” said Gamelyn. “There are magics in the dungeon that can change a person’s form.”

“Indeed,” said Atrahasis, “there’s one such close by.” He sighed. “Though it’s not a magic that can be controlled. Which is worse, do you think? Wild magic, or no magic at all?”

“Honestly,” said Gamelyn, “it depends on your situation.”


“I have no magic left,” Tilde explained wearily. “No magic, and no wine, either, which is worse.”

“But all your stories,” said Kezia. “Seeing the Lower Courts. Grand Masters of dragons, and demon princes … Your power must …”

“Kezia,” said Mew, “sometimes … the best of us … exaggerate.”

“I never exaggerate!” proclaimed Tilde. “Except when I want to, which, anyway.” She waved a hand. “The point is, no magic from me. Not right now.”

“We may face problems, then,” murmured Kezia. She took up her bow, and set one of the few arrows left her to the string. Tilde shook her head.

“Leave it,” she said. “If it comes to a fight, we lose. Besides, you’re no warrior.”

“No,” said Kezia. “And I have used what graces I have. But I can hear them. They’re close.”

“Onward, then,” said Tilde. “Less than three courts to go.”


Hochelaga listened idly as the others argued with Geoffrey about his betrayal, before the goblins had killed all his cobolds. He did not apologise, but swore on Oak and Holly to stand with them in future. The oath did not satisfy Gral or several others. Still, no-one seemed to want to punish him, or insist that he leave them. How could you drive a man on his own out into the dungeon beyond?

After much discussion, Gryselde sighed, and said: “It seems to me that we are all lost in Fell Gard together, and that if the tale William has told of our deeds is to have a fair ending, it must be through the acceptance of others, and the working of their stories into our own. Even when there is risk in doing so.” She looked at Geoffrey. “I will accept your oath,” she said, “but I will not hesitate to exile you, if you act against us again.”

Geoffrey nodded, and grunted.

“Later, we must speak further of the acts of this day, and the questions it has left us,” said Gryselde. “But I must crave your pardons, first.”

“What do you mean?” blurted out Hochelaga. Everyone looked at her. Gryselde raised a hand.

“I have been remiss in my duties,” she said. “I have not chanted a Ring since we entered the dungeon. Tomorrow, when we wake, I will do so. All of you are welcome in the circle. I know some of you — many of you — do not follow the path of Ossian. You are still welcome to witness, if you wish it.”

“This is a ceremony of some kind?” asked Diccon. “Do we … have to do anything?”

Amanos muttered something as Domini translated for her. Gryselde said, “We chant lessons for ourselves. Hundreds of years ago a man named Ossian was given knowledge of the courts of Oak and Holly. When we chant a Ring, we recall some of these truths. There are no requirements, nor need you sing with us.”

“Well, it sounds fascinating,” Diccon said, smiling at her.

Gryselde nodded, and said: “Henceforth I mean to chant a Ring every morning.  Again I ask your pardons for not yet having led a service.”

“What will we do after?” asked Enheduanna. “Do we continue to explore? If so, should we look for other people on this level — this court — or do we go deeper into the dungeon? Should we speak with this Conradin, who —”

The old woman, Wymarc, was shaking her head. “No, lady,” she said. “No. He’s always looking for where’s a weakness, you see. Talk with him, he’ll open a war with you.”

“We are many of us tired, and some still hurt,” said Gryselde. “We should sleep, I think, and tomorrow, after the Ring, we will speak of what our choices should be. If those of you that have spent your life in Fell Gard will allow it, the rest of us should ask you of the dungeon. I had thought, wrongly, that I understood the nature of the place. Only now, having been through a very small part of it, do I understand how much I do not yet know.”

“Fairly said,” muttered Gamelyn.

“I would learn, then, about the languages of Fell Gard, its faiths, how one finds food, and other such things,” said Gryselde. “We can make our choices after that.” She paused; there seemed a general agreement.

The sorine then turned to Wymarc, Diccon, Elous, and Agneta. “Still, today, before we sleep, there are matters to which we must attend, and the first of those is to do right by your fallen mates. What rites do you wish for them?”

“Oh, bless you, none of them were my mates,” said Wymarc with a laugh. “Though I gave them every chance, especially that Himon, there.”

“Death were a mercy for him, then,” muttered Agneta.

“When a speaking creature dies in the dungeon, cremation is best,” said Diccon. “Most faiths agree to that. Well, unless the dead had some crypt or prepared place set aside. But …”

“You want to be sure they don’t return, you see,” said Gamelyn. “That no evil priest or wandering spirit will animate them. I would suggest a pyre.” Diccon nodded, and Wymarc and Agneta murmured in agreement.

“Very well,” said Gryselde. “And then after that, in what rooms shall we sleep?”

Hochelaga didn’t care so much, and sat back, breathing in the scent of the trees and staring into the high light of the ætheric moss, as the others talked this over. They swiftly decided that the women would sleep in the room west of the gardens, among the shelves and tools, and the men in one of the rooms west of that. The sylph, who didn’t sleep at all, would watch over the women, and the dwarves could keep watch over the males. Then Enheduanna said no, she wanted to sleep with William, and Geoffrey and some others laughed at that, which puzzled Enheduanna; anyway they all talked about it a bit more, and decided that there were some chambers to the north where there was an ivy-covered wall, and those would serve for quarters for William and Enheduanna, and also for the glumm and gawry. Those two had been very quiet, Hochelaga thought; that was probably understandable, all told.

She stretched out her legs. They weren’t just tired, much as the muscles were aching. She was pretty sure her shoes were too tight, also. That could be a problem. Where would she find shoes, in the dungeon? But maybe that wasn’t important right now.

Hochelaga’s head felt funny. Not in a bad way, though. It felt like it was boiling, though it wasn’t hot. Like she was becoming different; or like the thoughts in her head were becoming different. Tomorrow, after she’d slept and dreamed, she’d be able to think of a new charm; she wondered if she’d be able to hold two in her head. She’d never managed it before. But maybe …

Well, tomorrow was tomorrow. She lay back and relaxed as the others began to talk about washbasins.


What if the three of us die? thought Tilde. Well, then, probably a lot of other people will die, too, she answered herself. Given what I’ve learned. Nothing for it but to climb.

“I can see them,” muttered Kezia. “Oak, ash, and thorn! There are so many.”

“Why,” gased Mew, “why can’t I hear them? They’re so, so quiet.” He glared at Tilde, as if she’d broken a promise.

“Climb,” said Tilde. “That’s all. Just climb. Two more courts.”

They climbed.

Things climbed after them.


The outlaws had washbasins and chamber-pots, but not many. The basins weren’t needed — they could wash faces, hands, and feet in the springs among the tree-roots — but more chamber-pots would be useful. Still, there was enough to get on with. In the morning they could dump the night-soil down the Abyss; that was what the outlaws did.

(It seemed to Hochelaga that ‘outlaws’ was the best word for the robbers. But were there laws in the dungeon for them to be outside of? She would have to ask them, later.)

They agreed to keep the clock in the outlaws’ old lair, which might as well also serve as a store-house for any other treasures or riches that they found. “What use are coins and gems and such in the dungeon?” wondered Hochelaga.

“Ah, but for me I hope in time to find my way out of the dungeon,” said William.

“They’re useful here,” Gamelyn answered her. “They have … hmm. You can trade with them, in some places. We can speak more of this tomorrow. But there are places.”

Yune took out a stone disc from the pocket of his robes. Looking at it, he said: “Well, as for the clock, I will set it to running presently. You outer-worlders might want to know that I make it the sixteenth hour of the twenty-third day of Woldmonath.”

“What, we’ve been only two days in the dungeon?” said William.

“No sun,” said Ulixa. “No stars.”

“How do you tell hours without the sun?” asked Domini.

Yune waved a hand. “I’ve heard you above the earth make your hours fit the length of time the sun’s in the sky,” he said, “so that the hours of a day in winter are different from the hours of a day in summer. That’s not so here. We have twenty-four hours in the day, the same as you, but they’re all the same length, all the time.” He showed them the stone. Upon its face was a shadow cast by nothing at all; the disc was like a sundial, but lacking a gnomon — or, come to that, a sun. “Read this right, and you’ll have the time to the very minute,” said the old dwarf.

Amanos said something about guards, and Domini translated: “Lady Amanos says that will make it simpler to set watch times.”

“Never mind that,” said Wymarc. “It makes it simpler to cook!”

Gryselde nodded her head. “The grain in the other room,” she said. “Can you make bread from it?”

“If you’ve grindstones,” said Wymarc. “And someone to do the grinding.”

“There must be loose stones somewhere,” said Ulric.

“Certainly,” said Hochelaga. They all looked at her. “Well, you said you found vaults filled with gemstones,” she said. “The sylphs’ room, and so forth. Use the gems as grindstones.”

It had seemed obvious to Hochelaga, but the others were surprised: “We’ll bake a bread fit for kings!” cried Geoffrey. William remembered that among the outlaws’ treasures was a brass bowl set with agates, and they realised that would do for another chamber pot.

It all seemed simple, to Hochelaga. In the dungeon you had to look at everything in a new way, that was all. And be ready to reverse all the values you thought you had.


I will not throw Mew back to them, thought Tilde. I will not. No. Maybe. No.

She was gasping for air. There was a terrible pain in her side. The weight of the grimoire in her pack was crushing. Her shoulder and arm ached from holding the torch. Even the bætulum, tucked into a pouch at her belt, seemed to drag at her; though she knew well that it was no heavier than any other overlarge gemstone. She decided she needed a drink terribly, and then she decided no, she didn’t. She needed to climb the stairs. Despite the way her vision was swimming.

Kezia was praying under her breath, elven sing-song. It was beautiful.

Mew was complaining.

A rat chittered up behind them, half shadow. Tilde threw a pebble at it. She missed, but it scurried back down a step and glared at them.

Soon, Tilde thought. Soon they’ll come for us.

She wondered distantly if the creatures would slow down much, if she did throw them Mew.

And kept climbing.


Hochelaga was surprised to learn the party of explorers had found other treasures beside coins and gems.

“Here,” Gamelyn said to her. He gave her a marble tablet and a scrap of paper. She looked at them, and gasped. “You’re welcome,” he sighed.

“Are they important?” asked Paradox, who had been quiet and smiling the whole time they’d talked of food (had he even eaten?) and other necessities.

“They’re magic!” said Hochelaga. “They’re texts! They’re … sets of symbols — well, any text is — but these are symbols of, symbols that have greater meaning — they’re keywords for charms! Oh, thank you, Gamelyn!” The dwimmerlaik waved a hand.

She sat staring at the texts for some time, letting her mind wander over the woven words, feeling them stir senses deep within her, triggering ambiguities and uncertainties. After a few minutes she realised the gawry, Euarchy, had come over to her. “The bard said that you were a wizard,” said the winged woman.

“I am a wizard,” Hochelaga told her. “Although I don’t think he’s a true bard. Just a Goliard.”

“Be that as it may,” said Euarchy. She took a letter from a pouch she wore on a sort of belt under her wings. “Perhaps you can make use of this, then.”

It was another text, as well. Hochelaga almost squealed. “Thank you!” she cried. “Where did you find it?”

“It was part of our message,” she said. “To Simon, the Weeping King. A treaty, and a letter, and that. He rejected all of them.”

“It’s wonderful,” said Hochelaga. And it was. Texts, and food, and green grass — Fell Gard seemed better all the time.


“There,” breathed the elf. “You see it?”

The torch shook in Tilde’s hand. “No,” she gasped. “Can’t make it out.”

“Not far,” said Kezia. “Mew —”

“They’re coming,” said the short priest. His voice was flat. Beyond fear. “They’re coming.”

“Hurry,” said Kezia.

Tilde took a breath. She closed and opened her eyes. Suddenly she felt dangerously clear-headed. “I see it now,” she said. “The last steps. Run. Run!”

Somehow, they did.


They were lazily talking over the wonders and mysteries of the dungeon, about to begin building the pyre, when Hochelaga saw Enheduanna straighten up. The elf was gazing to the south-west.

“Something’s coming,” she said. “From the Abyss! Something’s coming!”

“Those who are not fighters, fall back!” Gryselde ordered everyone, as they all leaped to their feet. “Atrahasis, gather them all, and lead them to Entemena —”

Three figures, two mortals and an elf-woman, burst from the southernmost hall. They were bleeding and gasping for air. The elf put up her hands as she approached the clearing. The mortals were doubled over, and collapsed as they reached the glade. “Help!” cried the elf. “I pray you!”

“Who are you?” shouted Gryselde.

“Come on,” Atrahasis whispered to Hochelaga.

“I can help,” she whispered back.

In the clearing, the elf said: “I am Kezia, a vala of the elf-folk.”

Hochelaga could feel Atrahasis freeze, and hear his breath catch. Enheduanna said: “What?”

“B — Bar — Barthol-o-me-us,” choked out one of the mortals.

“Mistress Tilde,” gasped the other. “Glossologist.”

Hochelaga ran forward to the fallen woman. “Glossologist?” she cried.

The older woman saw her, and said, “Flee. We’re being chased —”

“Ah,” Enheduanna murmured, “I hear them.”

Then there was a shriek, a bird’s cry, that gave them all pause. From the same hall as the three new people had come emerged a parade of monsters. There were great grim rats, and there were shadowy bats (like the ones that had chased Hochelaga and Ulric the other day), and there were a pair of horrible long-legged spiders with bodies as big as Hochelaga, and there was an overlarge crow that whirled about a terrible lean manlike shape.

“A frightjack,” muttered Gamelyn. “This is very much not good.”

Hochelaga, kneeling, hugged the new glossologist, and wondered what to do.

She understood something more, now, about the dungeon. And she didn’t like it very much.


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