The Fell Gard Codices


“Of course you have my permission to remain in Innsdene, for the time being,” said Sir Hugh. “We don’t have beds for all of you, but as you believe it safe, you will no doubt find places to sleep in the forest — beds of moss and pine needles, perhaps, but beds of a sort. I have made arrangements for my villeins to provide you with food from their gardens for tonight. You are free to make your own further arrangements with the people of the village, as well.”

“Thank you, my lord,” said Gryselde.

They were dining in the hall of the manor house, along with Yune and Ulixa and the two priests of the village. William would not stir from the lake-side, nor Ulric from the cauldron. The priest, John of the Inner Book, was at table also; she did not understand him, who claimed no special relationship to any god other than Oak and Holly alone. But the church in the south was very different from that of the north. For all she knew, John still regarded the mendicant orders as illegitimate.

Gryselde had to admit that Sir Hugh had displayed a fair largesse in the meal he had provided them. Fine white wastel bread; capons stuffed with eggs, parsley, hyssop, rosemary, sage, currants, and even, she suspected, a touch of saffron; cheese tarts. Buttered beer to drink. Given how few sheep had been brought into Fell Gard with the village she could not grudge Hugh the lack of meat beyond the poultry.

“What are your intentions?” Sir Hugh asked them.

“Firstly, to rest,” said Gryselde. “This has been a difficult day for us all.”

“True,” said Hugh. “That song … you know that it … did no good for my people.” He seemed to look inside himself for a moment. Then returned to the dinner: “But your intentions, then?”

“I suggest that Innsdene host our House, and that we in turn protect Innsdene from the dangers of Fell Gard,” said Gryselde.

Hugh tapped his fingers on the table. “Tell me,” he said, “this House — where is it?”

“I don’t understand, my lord,” she said.

“Where is your territory?” he asked. “Who are your people? A collection of adventurers?” He waited. She did not know what to say. “You suggest I treat with you as though you were leader of a host,” he said, “but it seems to me more just simply to say, this is Innsdene, if you wish to live in this place you must swear allegiance to me.” He looked around at them all. “For the moment, you are my guests,” he said. “It is right for me to show largesse. In the long run, of course, you must serve or move on.”

“To find a way for your people out of Fell Gard,” observed Gryselde, “someone must explore the dungeon.”

“And so they shall,” said Sir Hugh. “As I, the appointed authority in Innsdene, direct them.”


Monoloke-under-Geoffrey went to the northern wall of the cave — driving away a small creature in a dark cloak, who whispered to him angry words he could not quite hear — and there he slept, though not deeply, for deep sleep was not natural to his kind (who must ever be ready to spring awake at a word from those in power above them); yet sleep he did, and he dreamed of a god with a cat’s eye that was always watching him, and dreamed also of breaking stones and finding shapes inside them, to whom he was himself in the nature of a god.


Sybil couldn’t find Spyrling anywhere. She didn’t want to ask anyone where he’d gone; she wasn’t sure who to trust, or how much. Still, he didn’t seem to be in the town, and if he’d gone into the forest for some stupid reason she knew she’d never find him. Which meant she needed help.

She wandered behind the inn, thinking about who she’d ask. There was a small structure not far away, with a forge, and ovens. She went to look, but Spyrling wasn’t there, unsurprisingly. Only, as Sybil poked around, she heard someone behind her. She turned, to see the creature that had named itself Reprisal.

“You,” said the tadigeman. “What is that you have?”

“What do you mean?” asked Sybil, her hand automatically going to her silken glossologist’s satchel, with her grimoire and the ruby cup. “I’m looking for Spyrling? He’s the boy — he was with me — you remember —”

“He is of no interest,” said the tadigeman. He — it — took a step toward her, eyes locked on the satchel. “It is to do with power,” the tadigeman said. “I want it.”

“It’s magic,” said Sybil. “You don’t — do tadigemen cast spells?” The thing took another step toward her. “You’re not a tadigeman,” said Sybil. She didn’t know how she knew. The way it moved, as though its body were a mask. The way it looked at things. She took a step back, setting both hands on her satchel. “What are you?” she asked.

“Reprisal,” it said.

“And I’m Tilde!” burbled a voice behind it. The pudgy old-lady wizard wandered around the side of the inn, smiling vacantly. “How do you do? Reprisal, was it, such a distinctive name.” She strode toward them quickly, holding out a hand for clasping. The tadigeman, or whatever it was, watched her. Tilde’s arm dropped as she passed the tadigeman, as though she’d forgotten about shaking hands; at any rate Reprisal had made no move toward her. Then Reprisal’s head twitched; Tilde’s snapped around to stare back; the two stared at each other a moment before Reprisal looked away.

Sybil watched Tilde warily as she drew nearer. The older lady linked her arm with Sybil’s. “I hear you’re a glossologist,” she said brightly. Her breath smelled strongly of wine. “I’m a glossologist, too, you know. Let’s talk shop! Not that I have a shop. Have you ever been in a glossologist’s shop? I’ve visited both Mister Eth and Magister Thorn, and also Dame Yogh, but she’s a little different.”

“Eth and Thorn are legends,” said Sybil. “Fables.” Was the woman crazy? Sybil found herself being led southward, toward the path in front of the inn, where some of the newcomers were speaking. Reprisal stood, and watched them go.

“Oh, I know,” agreed Tilde. “And Eth thinks that gives him an excuse to keep such an untidy store! Dark and dusty and dingy, with texts here and a Cloak of Folly over there and I swear I once found a Hand of Glory burning away underneath a, what was it, Bell of Opening with no clapper, I think. He’s a dear, though. A grumpy dear, but a dear. Now Thorn, well. He’s a charmer, but it’s all an act. You’re better off not to buy from him, unless you need to, but then you never seem to run into his shop unless you’re in dire need.”

“That’s what the stories say,” whispered Sybil. “And the shops are never there, if you try to find them again.”

“Oh, no,” Tilde agreed. “But live long enough, and they do have a way of turning up.” She glanced back behind her and let out a long breath. Sybil realised Tilde had been terrified. “Well, then,” she said. “It’s a lucky thing my name still carries weight in certain quarters, I suppose. Tell me, dear. What was that creature so interested in?”


In his loft above the main room of his household, where his kin spoke in low voices of the things they had seen and felt by the side of the lake, Michael of the Line Godfrey slept, and dreamed, as he always did, of arising into the sky, among the moons and planets; and this time there was a boy with him, who guided him along the way, and spoke wisdom.


“She says Sir Hugh would have each of us oathbound to him separately,” Geoffrey said. “She wants us instead to follow her, and keep to her House. Then we would have more freedom, or somesuch.”

Amanos stared across the inntable at Gryselde. Outside, others were finding places to sleep, and talking over what to do next. “What does she want of me?” she asked.

Geoffrey spoke to the hollyoak sorine, and told Amanos, “She wants you not to swear to Sir Hugh.”

“I must think on this awhile,” said Amanos, not looking away from Gryselde.

Geoffrey told the sorine this, then belched, rose from the table, and went to haggle with the innkeeper for more beer. The sorine, for her part, did not leave.

Outside, Amanos knew that her countrymen were preparing a shadowplay. She had not spoken to them. How could she, being what she was, and in disgrace? No. She had decided: her life was in the underearth.

A Wican knight wanted her to bend the knee. Amanos felt that she’d had enough of oaths. For several minutes, she sat, and thought; recalling what she had seen through the window, pondering the evil principle.

Across from her, Gryselde started to rise.

Amanos reached out and set her hand over the sorine’s.

The two women, wordless, stared into each other’s eyes, unsmiling yet in accord.


Hochelaga went a little way into the forest, not far from where William kept a vigil by the lakeside, and lay down on a bed of moss between two large tree roots; she stared up through the trees for a few minutes, thinking about the ætheric moss and the cervidwen’s potion, and then fell asleep, and dreamed of walking in her city with Concordia on her shoulder under the gaze of a giant cat’s-eye, and of herself watching an angry crowd burn down the parliament that governed all the land.


In the shadow of a high pine tree, Sybil showed Tilde the ruby cup. “Hum,” said Tilde. “A pretty thing, isn’t it?”

“Do you know what it is?” asked Sybil.

The older woman shook her head. “Haven’t a clue.”

“It’s magic,” Sybil said, “but I don’t know what it does. I found it in a hall over that way.”

“Let’s have a look there, then,” said Tilde. They started off.

“How did you know … I mean, it was lucky that you showed up when you did,” said Sybil.

Tilde laughed. “Oh, no, you’re quite right, it wasn’t luck,” she admitted. “I’d been keeping an eye on that … Reprisal … since I heard its name. It seems to me I knew of a Reprisal once. I don’t know what that one would be doing here, or how it would have found its way to this court, but one doesn’t like to take chances, does one?” She blinked at Sybil.

“We found it in a prison,” said Sybil. “It said something about a wizard who had control of one of the Fell Gard Codices, and shaped the dungeon to hold it.”

“Did it,” murmured Tilde. “Oh dear. Then maybe it is the Reprisal I was thinking of. Oh deary bugger dear. Hmm.”

“What is Reprisal, really?” asked Sybil.

Tilde sighed, and told her. Sybil immediately wished she hadn’t.


The six canons of Secga had found a clearing in the forest, and George found a soft spot on the ground while the other canons at once began berating Baldwin for having led them away from their beloved scrolls to no greater library, and Baldwin in return scolded them for being witlings; but George, younger than the others at only thirty-and-six, didn’t care, and lay back, to sleep and dream of an infinite library (coterminous with Secga himself) of six-walled chambers, in which mortals lived all their lives and died, and through which ran little dark-cloaked things like women and men.


“There is no doubt so far as I can see that we should follow the sorine,” said Yune as Gral, listening, stared into the heart of the fire. “That is, Alkahest, unless we can find our way to your home.”

The three of them were sitting just inside the southern hall, which led to the beetles’ cavern. Yune had made a small fire, and they were roasting dead beetles in their own shells; cooked so, the bugs were delicious. Gral raised his head to watch the girl answer, and thought of his father’s message.

“No,” said Alkahest. “Because we were taken here by magic, I don’t know exactly how to return. I know there are dwarves upon this court; we had reports of a war with hob-goblins. Could we find them?”

Gral could not keep from staring at the girl. All he could think of was the letter his father had written him. “Hob-goblins, eh?” said Yune thoughtfully. “Perhaps …”

“Alkahest,” said Gral. “What can you tell me of the halls from which you come?”

She looked from him to Yune. “We have taken oaths of secrecy,” she said. “I can tell you, as you are dwarves, but you must be initiated first.”

“What does that involve?” Gral asked.

She shrugged. “Oaths; ceremony; and then killing something.”

“Well enough,” he said.


Atrahasis had found a comfortable patch of ground but could not sleep — he would drift off, and dream, and then wake; for his dreams were mortal dreams, which, as he had found, were confused, and contradictory, and lacked the hard clarity of the dreams he once had known.

Nevertheless, they were clear enough. He sighed, and rose, and, for lack of an alternative, walked back toward the town.

Along the way he met Hochelaga Trice.


Sybil described what she’d seen through her charm as Tilde looked around the cup chamber. The older woman nodded when Sybil finished. Sybil waited for an explanation, but Tilde was silent. “What does it mean?” Sybil asked.

“It means somebody thought they were clever,” said Tilde, squinting at the altar where Sybil had found the cup. The older wizard rapped her knuckles against the stone, then took drank from her wineskin. “They worked a charm on the cup to keep other charms from learning about it,” she said. “I wonder why? — Atrahasis, Hochelaga! Good to see you. We have a little puzzle.”

Sybil turned to see the little girl and the old man entering the small cave. “We had dreams,” said Hochelaga.

Tilde waved a hand. “Ætheric light, powerful magic. The moss up on the ceiling’s a little different than the standard variety.”

“I’d noticed,” said Hochelaga. Sybil yawned.

“Have yourself some sleep, dear,” said Tilde. “Hmm. Better put the cup back. The three of us will puzzle it out.”

Sybil looked around at them all. There is trust, and then there is trust, she thought. But … Tilde was a glossologist, and that implied, not trust, exactly, but collegiality, at least; besides which, Reprisal — if Tilde was right about the thing pretending to be a tadigeman, the older woman had taken a terrible risk. For Sybil’s sake.

Sybil sighed, and brought out the cup. As the old man gasped, she set it on the stone altar, and then went to sit against the wall. She let herself drowse, watching the others through half-closed eyes.

All of them were silent, contemplating the magic thing.


Ingrith of the Tongueless Bell listened to John of the Inner Book lay out what had happened at his dinner, and what he thought they should do — “Sir Hugh is the designated authority of Innsdene,” he’d said, “but this Sorine Gryselde will I think bind us to oaths less strict” — and, when they had agreed to all that, fell asleep to the distant strains of the melanchloly singer’s harp; and then Ingrith dreamed that she had to find books scattered through a vast palace — or maybe it was the other way around, that there were palaces scattered through a vast book, and she had to flip the pages and find them while falcons rose in the sky beyond.

She woke up to find that Clara of the Two Trees had set her hand in a bowl of water, in a failed attempt to make her piss herself.


The caladrius, bright-shining bird of pain’s-end, stared in the face of Hwitwic; who let it go, to rise again. Robert watched, wordless. Bark of a pine tree against his back. Knobbed lines of its roots under his rump.

“Will you take action against them?” Robert asked. “The potion-brewers?”

Hwitwic shook his head. The antlers, cut with ogham lines. “I do not have the right,” he said, “to interfere in what is begun.” He looked at Robert, his eyes larger than a mortal man’s and wiser. “I am sorry for what you found … when you came for me.”

“Ah,” said Robert. “Yes.” His hands trembled. Rage, sickness of shame. Old man, old man, that you should fall for it. Oh those bright eyes. Would he have, of his own free will? “That’s done, now,” he said.

“Do you hate them?” asked the cervidwen.

“I must, for what they did,” said Robert. “Not only of the body, but the spirit.” A sigh. “Life is learning to forgive what you hate, and wondering if it’s weakness or wisdom. Or both.”

“The forgiveness?” asked the cervidwen. “Or the hatred?”

Said Robert: “Both.”


Wymarc slept by the side of the lake, and oh, it had been long since she’d had such a dream, of all her husbands come back to her and pleasuring her at once in their own ways, and all of them better than ever they had been, and all of them were only one, and he was like no man she had ever seen, with shining eyes and silken robes, and they were upon a throne, and there were his retainers about them with heads like Reprisal, and far away watching, a dead king of shadows.

Wymarc woke with a gasp and a shudder, remembering for a moment the huldrafolk’s chant, then rolled over, and fell into a dreamless slumber.


“You see that it is cut inside the rim,” said Atrahasis. “Also, there is an asterism within the stone.”

“It’s a star ruby,” said Hochelaga. They were speaking quietly so as not to wake Sybil, who sat slumped against the wall, her eyes twitching under their lids. “Huh. — Do you think the shape of the rim has some meaning?”

“It seems … familiar,” said Atrahasis. “I wonder —”

“Where’s Tilde?” asked Hochelaga, a moment before they heard a shout from down the hall, back toward the main cave.

“Got you!” came the distant cry. A moment later, Tilde emerged from the hall, dragging a little manlike creature in a dark grey cloak. “We had a spy.”

“Is that a darkling?” asked Hochelaga.

“What were you doing here?” Atrahasis asked it.

“Oh, don’t be silly,” said Tilde. “These things don’t talk.”

“There is danger coming,” said the darkling. “Terrible terrible danger.”

Tilde let the darkling go, and scratched her head. “Well,” she said. “Fancy that.”


When the priests in the nearby clearing finally stopped swearing at each other about books, Giliane was able to fall entirely asleep without a wrathful voice at the edge of awareness snapping her back awake, even though some of the other slaves (ah, but they weren’t slaves, now, were they, not any longer) were by her — blustering Walter acting like he was in charge, foolish young Adhelina thinking Osmer actually cared and would come find her, Constance who had never been happy before Henry and still shuddered and sobbed … she left them behind, and entered a dream in which heroes and villains were talking all around her in whispers she didn’t understand, and it was very dark, and there were goblins coming.

She opened her eyes knowing she wanted to be part of the sorine’s House.


“Absolutely not,” said Elous, with certainty. “It was magic. You can’t blame yourself.”

“I don’t see why not,” said Theda.

“Have you ever been enchanted before?” Elous asked her.

“Not … not really,” said Theda.

“Well, then,” said Elous. They had been talking for hours, lying with the thick branches of a pine tree not far above their heads. It smelled as wonderful as anything Elous had ever known. Theda had said this was like the most perfect night in all the world, with a full moon and no rain and a wondrous forest with no wolves (there were ratmen and a crow-man and a goblin; but they were friendly). Here it will go on forever, Elous had said. She had her arm around Theda, who had yet to complain. Elous didn’t really understand it, but it felt right. “I felt it too,” she said, trying not to think of the hollow women with their breasts and sex. “But … that’s what magic is, Theda,” she said, still surprised to feel her tongue shape the name, to feel it press against her teeth in a strange kind of intimacy. “Magic will reach inside you and … it will sometimes twist you about, or it can show you something about yourself you didn’t know and might not want to know, or … it can change anything and you can’t stop it, but … if you let it, you might be able to … work with it? Does that make sense?”

Theda turned under her arm. She was looking right at her. Elous felt her breath stop for a moment. Theda reached down the front of her own tunic, and Elous’ mouth went dry. Then Theda took out a small holly twig with full berries. “Yllaria gave me this last year,” she said. “She’s a sage. She told me there was no man for me and then told me if I let this nestle between my breasts I would know when I had met the one that I was waiting for. I didn’t know what she meant, how it was both these things could be true.” Theda gave her the holly twig. It was very warm. “I just, I wanted you to know,” said Theda. “I don’t want to … hide anything from you.”

Elous didn’t say anything, but put her other arm around Theda.

They were both silent for a while. Elous wondered how long it would last; and whether she could stay there, with Theda, forever and ever, and leave all the matter of bands and Houses to others.


In Gamelyn’s dream, he put on one mask after another, trying to find his face, and every mask wore away that much more of him; his shadow laughed, and told him secret things about cities that never existed, such that he wondered how it knew all that it knew — and he thought wait, what am I looking for, really, among all these shadows and masks; and he realised he could not say, and this was what worried him more than any other thing because it felt as though he ought to know and had known once and in no longer knowing had lost the most vital part of himself, and what was he able to pass on to Ulixa, really?


The darkling would say nothing more they understood, nothing more of the supposed danger. Atrahasis wondered if it could; it had spoken as if language was a foreign land, in which it now picked its way nervously, unaware of the local customs, and now raced ahead, not knowing dangers and rights of way. — No; he had forgotten. Once it had said “He is in your dreams, he knows too much.” Atrahasis wondered how that could have slipped his mind; but it was the nature of mortal memory, so different from what he had known when he was an elf. So much less precise, as though the sheer amount of remembrances pushed some to the back. He wondered once again if the trade had been worth it, the loss of his magic against the extra years of life.

In the end, Tilde bound the creature but left him (or it) ungagged. The darkling was terrified, but not of them. In fact, Atrahasis had the idea it had been watching them, wanting to come forward but perhaps uncertain or nervous. Until Tilde forced its hand.

Atrahasis looked from the darkling to the goblet, wondering what the connection was. He wondered also if he would have known, by now, if he were still the elf he once had been. If he were still a wizard. Tilde had told them what Sybil had learned by her charm; he remembered vaguely what casting a spell was like, but the feeling of it wasn’t there. He thought of the gargoyle; of the dream that had changed him. For what? he found himself thinking. To rescue some tyrant of ages past, a soul trapped in —

— Ah, he thought.

Of course. The way the interior of the goblet was cut. The nature of the spells, so oddly incomplete. Of course. And if the darkling had known of it, then — had he brought it here? Was he working for someone else, and if so —

“I know,” said Atrahasis, his mouth dry. “I know what the goblet is for. Only it isn’t a goblet. We have to tell Gryselde. At once!”

“I don’t know where she is,” said Hochelaga.

“What’s so important?” asked Tilde. “Anyway, it looks like a goblet. Why couldn’t it be a goblet, if it wanted to?”

“Call it a vessel, then,” he said. “A reliquary. It is made to hold the ruby my brothers and sisters are guarding, so the gem can be carried. It will keep the spirit bound within.” He looked around at them. “We can save them,” he said. “We can save them!”


Deacon Anselm lay on his cot, and dreamed of terrible things arising out of the forest and of a labyrinth through which he must run and of a song which was his only guide.

He woke, uncomfortably aware of his erection, and tried to go back to sleep and not wake Ranulf, who had a bad temper at the best of times. Anselm knew it would be Ranulf’s duty to guide the flock through their confusion over the encounter with the huldrafolk, and their fear of being in Fell Gard. And also that Ranulf would try to shift as much of that weight as he could to Anselm, which Anselm was not looking forward to.

It occurred to Anselm to wonder what else there was in Fell Gard that would threaten Innsdene; and how much counsel he would have to provide.

And he wondered then if the newcomers might let him join them, so he could sneak away without Ranulf noticing.

It was a joke of a thought; but no, it wasn’t, really.


Every so often the singer played on his harp, and Spyrling could hear the notes.

“Please,” he said. “You can let me go. I won’t tell anyone.”

The crazy old woman only glowered at him. She’d knocked him out from behind somehow, while he’d watched the tadigeman and the tall man talk, and when he’d woken up he’d found himself in her hut. It was near the water, he could feel that much, but where? Could he risk shouting for help?

No. She hadn’t hurt him yet, not much, and he didn’t want to risk it. “You think I don’t know you for a spy, boy?” she demanded.

“I’m sorry,” he said for the hundredth time. “I didn’t mean to spy on your — on that man.” Not her friend, he remembered. She had made that clear. He tested his bonds for the hundredth time again, but they were still tight and strong.

“I don’t believe you,” she said. “Let’s go over things again.”

“But I don’t know anything,” he said. “I was born in Fell Gard, I don’t know anything about this Crying Simon or whatever!”

“First,” said the crazy old lady, “tell me everything you know about the woman in shining armour.”

He sighed, and tried to tell her what he could.


On a ledge of stone high above Innsdene, Kwangrolar slept by Euarchy and dreamt of falling, falling from Brandlegard to the court of Simon Tristram, as though he were some criminal to have had his grawndee, his wings, cut from him; Simon Tristram laughed, and as he fell Kwangrolar saw Brandlegard topple over above him and follow him down to the hard earth.


Gryselde was helping to keep watch by the entrance to the western hall when Hochelaga and Atrahasis and Tilde and Sybil found her. At their insistence she went with them, and they explained to her what they’d learned. Gryselde was silent, thinking. It is happening as it must, she decided; but even given that, what was she to do? How much freedom of action did she have?

In the end, she told them she would speak to the darkling alone. She spent some time with it in the little cave with the stone altar; and then went to the manor house, where she woke Lina and demanded to speak to Sir Hugh, claiming that she had word of an attack that would soon threaten Innsdene.

When Sir Hugh came to her, Gryselde said:

“People of my House have received intelligence that an attack will soon take place. Creatures called darklings, along with many other sorts, will invade this cave; we have a prisoner, if you wish to examine him. Now if you prefer, my House will make its way on its own, and leave you to deal with this matter. As no doubt you can. Otherwise, you should accept us as a House, and then we can negotiate terms by which we can continue to protect you, you to support us, and the both of us to find a way out of Fell Gard.”

Of course Sir Hugh insisted upon the darkling being brought to him, and upon questioning it; but of course he got little from it. Only warnings of danger. Gryselde thought about Entemena, and the elves. She thought of Kate, and Nil. She thought she understood now why she had to remain silent about what she knew; but it was not easy.

Eventually Sir Hugh returned to her, in the main hall of the manor. “If an attack comes, and you fight for us,” he began, and then stopped, frowning. “If this should happen — should I believe this creature?”

“If we fight,” said Gryselde, “that will be the second attack in two days on Innsdene; and the second from which we will have saved you.”

“We will talk after that,” he said.


Mew was asleep — he knew he was asleep — but he was also deeper in the dungeon than he had any right to be, among ogres, and thurses, and basilisks, and bull-headed moleks, and so he was terrified out of his mind, and also there was something important that he just couldn’t remember; and then beside him there was an old man he couldn’t see, but who terrified him with holy awe, and Mew said “You! I have a message for you!” — and then he realised that was what he couldn’t remember — and the old man chuckled and said:

“Tell you what, boy, you come down a bit, and I’ll meet you halfway; but you got a lot of shit to go through first. Just you watch. The jacks are coming.

Mew woke with the old man’s laugh in his ear, sweating and unable to breathe for a moment.

All he could do was feel sorry for himself.


William stood by the shore of the lake. Someone had given him a dry cloak and tunic. He couldn’t remember who, now. He touched the strings of his harp, as he had done now and again through the night. Night? Through the sleeping-time. Behind him he thought people were beginning to wake.

“Ah, there you are,” said a voice. “I thought I’d missed you.”

“Eh?” said William, impatient, turning to see a man approaching from the north, walking along the shoreline. “Do I know you?”

The other man chuckled. “No, but I know you; I had to sing my way through the sentries to get to you. Don’t you know who I am? ‘I am a blizzard, my winds howling; I am a madman, my lips frothing; I am a serpent, between two trees.’ Yes?”

William blinked. Automatically he said: “‘I am a road, that leads away; I am a river, that floods my banks; I am a star, that winks above.’ You. You? You’re the bard of Powys-Terrwyn I was to meet? You’re …”

“Yes?” said the man.

“You’re here, in Fell Gard?” William asked.

“I am,” the other man said. “Now many dreadful things are about to happen to this pleasant town, and I fear some people will die. That’s as may be; here is what you must do — what’s your name, by the way?”

“William,” he said, and stopped. “Cai,” he said, his own name strange upon his tongue. “Cai ap Mervyn.”

“Very good, Cai,” said the other man. “You may have been told of me. My name is Jeroen. Jeroen Halfjack. Come, walk with me in the forest, and I’ll tell you what I’m about, and what will befall here.”


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