One Purple Thread.
Author: The Magic Rat
Pairings: Snow/Hercandoloff, Athsfalia/Blue.
Warnings: Implied drug use.
Website – Ex Libris: www.winter-wood.net/ex-libris/…
Live Journal: delaese.livejournal.com/profil…
Disclaimer: Copyright for all stories and original characters is with the author, and may not be published, copied, distributed or archived without the author's prior written consent.
Summary: It is a long hike from University to Living Gods, and you are going to need a suitable outfit.
Author’s notes: The definition of weird – being asked to fan-fic your own original fiction. I should also mention that my friend Pointy insists that the proper pronunciation of Harry’s name is George.
For those of you unfamiliar with my novel ‘A Strange Place in Time’, it is a three part fantasy series featuring all the stuff you know and love about my work – hot gay men, transgender unicorns, and mpreg. A cosplay photo of Monshikka’s outfit can be seen here –
If you would like to check out my novels, you can find them here –
Commission for Sunstroke-Art. This is First Age Dargoth, meaning the Court is not yet the Court. First Age names are as follows –
Snow Wolf – The Moonhound.
Hercandoloff – Blackbird.
Athsfalia – Misty.
Ilenya Skywolf – Infamous.
Wess – Same name.
Huarwar – Arrowsmith.
Sly – Same name.
Aldesing – Monshikka.
Blue – Same name.
The rain fell heavily, beating against the basement windows of the old house. Occasionally the sound of rain would be interrupted by the violent surf of a car passing by too fast for conditions, and a wave of water would pound on the glass, threatening to break it.
“So is this how you envisioned married life?” Snow Wolf asked dryly.
Hercandoloff sat on the floor, bent over a pile of books and papers resting on the coffee table before him.
“Yeah it’s great,” he mumbled, clearly distracted.
The red-haired woman watched him as he stared at the arcane glyphs and wards on the pages of the old book.
“Oh look, my clothes fell off,” she said.
He turned a page. Snow Wolf rolled her eyes and stood up.
“I’m going to an orgy. I’ll be back next week.”
She did not go to an orgy. Instead she went into the kitchen in their little basement suite to find one of their several roommates attempting to bake something.
“Athsfalia what are you doing?”
The big-shouldered blonde half-elf kept stirring. “Trying to make honey muffins, but this recipe is crap.”
“And yet you keep stirring, ensuring that they will be rubbery with great big peaks.”
He stopped stirring, just staring into the bowl. “Is that what I am doing wrong?”
“Yes. Muffins are only stirred until mixed. Not blended into glue.”
He sighed. “Okay, well that is one mystery of the universe solved. I suppose it’s too late to save this batch, so I may as well bake them.”
He turned on the oven to let it warm, then began spooning muffin batter into a pan. Snow Wolf poked at something in a pot. Athsfalia glanced at her.
“You know if your little husband out there accomplishes what he’s setting out to do, we’ll all be cooking our dinner on hot rocks. No TV, no computers, no internet, no on-line porn…”
“I love the way your mind goes to the important things. Can you shift that bowl of rice over to the table, please?”
He did, but as he turned he managed to somehow trip over his own feet – a most uncommon thing for an elf to do, even a half-elf. As he fell, the bowl was flung high into the air, where it did two complete summersaults before landing in the center of the table upside-down.
“SUPPER’S ON THE TABLE!” yelled Snow wolf, as Athsfalia picked himself up from the floor.
The door burst open, and nine-year-old Ilenya Skywolf tore into the room.
“OH BOY FOOD, MY FAVOURITE! Why is it under the bowl? Hey anybody wanna see what *I* found?!”
Athsfalia watched the child slowly right the bowl, then use a serving spoon to move some of the rice onto his plate.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I can’t tell you, I gotta show you, because if I tell you, you won’t believe me!”
“After dinner,” said Snow Wolf wearily, stirring something in the pot.
“Are we having black glop again?”
“Yes,” said Snow Wolf.
“YAY I love black glop.”
The kitchen door opened, and in stepped a young man with long brown hair, tied back into a wet, messy ponytail, carrying a very large bundle wrapped in oilskin. His glasses were steamed up, and despite being soaked through and dripping, he was grinning.
“Where is the future Wizard-King of Dargoth?”
“In what we laughingly refer to as the living room,” said Snow Wolf, spooning ‘black glop’ onto Ileyna’s rice. “What have you got there?”
“Oh this big mysterious bundle? This would be the only known tome in existence of the spells of the Crystal Mages.”
There were gasps from those gathered in the kitchen.
“WESS!” exclaimed Snow Wolf. “How did you get that?! The museum wouldn’t let us even LOOK at it, let alone take it out for a closer examination! How did you get it?”
“STOLE IT?! You STOLE it?! Wess are you crazy?! That book is priceless, they’ll throw us in jail until we’re too old to remember why you stole it in the first place!”
“That is beside the point. We must consider the long-term goal and set aside the conventional laws of the time,” said Wess.
She leaned forward and sniffed him. “And you’ve been smoking dragon-weed again.”
“Also beside the point.”
“Boy I wish *I* was training to be a priest of Shallougha, so I could steal things and smoke stuff that makes me act funny,” muttered Ilenya.
“We’ll tell you about your grandfather someday,” said Snow Wolf, setting the pot aside and hustling Wess out of the kitchen. “Oh darling husband of mine…”
Hercandoloff didn’t move. Sighing loudly in aggravation, she picked him up and physically turned him to face Wess, who grinned soggily.
“I have a present for you!” he lilted.
“Is it a study with a lock on the door?” asked Hercandoloff.
“Locked studies are irrelevant as we all exist in the solitary reality of our own minds. And no, it’s a book.”
“You’ve been smoking dragon-weed again.”
“What is it with you people and your concern for mortal laws?”
“We like keeping our mortal asses out of jail,” said Hercandoloff. “Show me the book.”
Wess unwrapped the tome and set it down on the old rickety coffee table, which did not seem strong enough to support it. The three moved aside anything that may possibly harm the book, then stepped back and gazed at it in reverence.
“Who besides me is afraid to touch that?” asked Hercandoloff. Wess deftly handed him a pair of gloves.
“Here. They use these in the archives when handling the ancient books.”
The pair settled down to examine the manuscript, just as Athsfalia and Ilenya came out of the kitchen.
“Come on!” insisted Ilenya. “I want to show you what I found!”
“Can we look tomorrow?” asked Snow Wolf, eyeing the pounding rain.
“Nuh-uh,” said Ilenya. “Someone will take it! And I can’t carry it myself! Oh – and bring your skinning knife. You’ll want it.”
She shrugged and went for her skinning knife, cloak, and a very large basket with a cover. Then she, Athsfalia, and Ilenya went out into the rain, running up the flight of concrete steps that led to the sidewalk. Twin Lakes was a difficult town to live in if one was a student, and not wealthy. The only way they were able to afford the house in which they lived was because they had eight people living together sharing utilities, and the landlord was effectively using the young students as free labour to repair it. There was studying and working and the raising of Hercandoloff and Snow Wolf’s foster-son, Ilenya. It was a busy household, but a happy one.
They reached the sidewalk and pulled their capes close to shield themselves from the rain and the spray washed up by the passing cars. It was becoming dark, and the streetlights cast a strange surreal glow.
“Ilenya you had better found something pretty special to get us out in this!” said Athsfalia.
“You won’t be mad when you see it! Come on!”
They followed the little boy down the street, reaching a small construction site; a pit was being dug beside the road to repair the drainage system. Ilenya bounded down the rocks and mud, the adults following grumpily. Ilenya waited for them at the bottom of the pit, then ran over to the broken cistern and pointed into it.
Snow Wolf and Athsfalia did. It was hard to determine what they were staring at, but after a few minutes Athsfalia drew a quiet gasp and approached what Ilenya had found. He knelt beside the two bodies, reaching out to touch the ice-white fur.
“Mycinocroft…” he said.
Snow Wolf drew near, and knelt beside him. “Looks like they died fighting.”
The two creatures did indeed appear to have died locked in mortal combat. There was a male and a female, and she had her long, savage teeth buried in his muzzle. How the female had died was not apparent, but the male had clearly died from suffocation. Athsfalia drew a flashlight out of his cloak and turned it on, shining the light on the two creatures. Snow Wolf pointed out markings on their fur.
“Look – white with black tipped ears, and black spots above the eyes. Never seen this colouration before.”
“I have,” said Athsfalia. “It’s called Royal. And they’re so rare that people who happen to own one are often called upon to prove they didn’t dye the fur themselves. Snow… we are looking at about three million gold in fur here.”
“I better skin them carefully, then.”
“Carefully and quickly. If we get caught we’ll be in trouble.”
Snow Wolf glanced at him. “What for?”
“This is private property. That means those pelts belong to whoever owns this cistern.”
“Yeah well what they don’t know won’t hurt us,” said Snow Wolf. “What is it Wess says? Why are we always so concerned with mortal laws?”
“He’s a bad influence,” said Athsfalia. “Ilenya, you skip on home. We’ll be along soon.”
Ilenya departed with uncharacteristic haste, clearly not caring for the cold and rain any more than the adults did. Athsfalia held the flashlight for Snow Wolf as she worked quickly and efficiently, removing the pelts up to the jaw, then carefully removing the heads.
“Why are you bringing those along?” he asked.
“Because it’s difficult enough skinning the head of a one and a half million gold creature without doing it in the dark and the rain. We can take them home and finish them, and use the brain for tanning.” She tucked the bloodied furs into the basket, then rose to her feet, taking Athsfalia’s arm. “Let’s get out of here.”
They left the pit, heading back to their house, where Ilenya was already in his pyjamas and awaiting them at the door.
“Do I have to go to school tomorrow?”
“Ask Herc,” said Snow Wolf.
“You’re no fun. Did you get the furs?”
Hercandoloff and Wess were still poring over the book, but they looked up as they heard the word “fur”.
“What did you kill?” asked Hercandoloff.
“We didn’t kill anything,” said Athsfalia. “A couple of mycinocroft seemed to have killed each other. Take a look at this.”
He reached into the basket and pulled out a bloodied white pelt. Their jaws dropped.
“Those are Royals!” said Wess.
“They are indeed,” said Athsfalia.
Snow Wolf removed her cape and blouse, hanging them up. She then tied back her long red hair.
“You boys will have to ogle while I work, those pelts are not getting any fresher, and I am very
reluctant to let them rot.”
A very large man walked into the room then; a man who towered above their heads, dressed in a long tunic and boots. More than his garb, however, indicated he was from very far away; there was his difficulty in understanding the language, his over-all size, and his obvious discomfort with pretty much everything around him. They had no idea from where he had come; all they knew was they had found him roughly seven weeks ago, terrified, at the edge of the town and brought him home. Slowly but surely the huge man was adjusting and learning their tongue. They could not wait until he spoke it well enough to tell them where he was from. All they knew was his name was Huarwar, which they had shortened to Harry.
“Harry,” said Snow Wolf, “would you like to help me prepare the furs?”
He did not seem to understand what she asked him, so he simply shook his head. She and Athsfalia carried the pelts into the kitchen, just as a strange little man with eerie pale grey eyes walked out of the kitchen. He had a large fish in his mouth, and he was growling. He settled on the floor like a dog to eat it.
“That man needs psychological help,” said Hercandoloff.
“Are you kidding?” said Wess. “Do you know how much money he saves us in security?”
“He needs a name,” said Hercandoloff. “We can’t just keep calling him ‘Growlie-pants’. It’s disrespectful.”
“I propose ‘Sylvannamyth’. It’s elegant, strong…”
“And it means ‘Growlie-pants’ in Fae.”
“So who is going to know besides you, me, and any random fairies we happen across?”
Hercandoloff shrugged. “It will do for now I suppose. But he needs a proper name.”
Ilenya sat down on the carpet beside Sylvannamyth, stroking the stripe of soft fur that ran down his back. “Can I watch ‘Blood Manor’ before bed?”
“Is your homework done?” asked Wess.
“Teeth brushed?” asked Hercandoloff.
“Noooo… I hate brushing my teeth! Toothpaste tastes horrible.”
“Listen to your dad,” said Wess.
“He’s not my dad,” said Ilenya. There was no malice to the remark, merely a statement of fact.
“Well he may have been in a previous life,” said Wess.
Wess just shrugged. Ilenya got up to go brush his teeth, and Harry went to sit on the old couch and watch what Hercandoloff and Wess were doing. He seemed fascinated by the beautiful illuminations, and he and Wess had an impromptu language lesson while Hercandoloff went off to make sure his foster son was getting his teeth brushed. There came the sound of the front door opening, then closing, and the lock snapping into place.
“Blue?” queried Wess.
“No, Aldesing,” said a voice. “Is Blue not home?”
“No, he’s not.”
“Good,” muttered Aldesing softly, “maybe we can have a pleasant evening for once.”
Wess smiled but gave no indication he heard. Aldesing could be heard hanging up his coat, then walked downstairs into the finished basement, his ice-white beauty defiled by the hideous green and white striped uniform he wore which featured a dancing pickle.
“And how was your day today?” asked Wess.
“Terrible. I am not cut out for this sort of duty at all. Today I found myself asking people why
they would like fries with that. Fortunately I will be spared the future indignity of stating that I work at Perky Pickle’s Burger Stand – I was fired.”
“I can’t see why, it’s a perfectly valid philosophical question. But what will you do now?”
Aldesing slipped out of his apron and hung it up, then pulled off the ugly paper hat and shook out his long white hair. “The local library is in need of assistants. I submitted an application, with luck I will get a call.”
Harry was carefully leafing through the beautiful book. He may not know how old it was, or what it represented, but he clearly knew how to handle it. Wess directed his attention to Aldesing.
“You know, you could just go home…”
“Yes and I could be rich again and comfortable again and leave the life of a wage-slave behind, and all I would have to do is marry some odious female I never met in real life and can scarcely tolerate on-line.”
“Why is your father so adamant you wed this woman?” asked Wess.
“Simple. I am a prince, she is a princess. We will marry and make babies and rule over Kirianna forever more. Except I can’t stand the nitwit, I don’t want to be King, and I am not entirely certain I like women. Something about them appeals to me not at all. I suspect at this rate I shall be a virgin a very long time.”
“No harm in being a virgin. Or not being one, for that matter.”
“Oh yes there is,” said Aldesing. “I have to be completely and utterly untouched on my wedding day. If I disgrace the throne with my behaviour, I and the person I defiled myself with can and will be thrown into a pit of spikes and briny sea-water full of happy little beach animals of the sort that like to burrow in human flesh. However when we actually die is left entirely up to us. Furthermore it is a requirement of my faith, and while I have little respect for my princely duties, I have infinitely more for the Creator. I should not even be wearing any colours apart from white, ice-blue, or pale silver. Certainly not this bloody pickle uniform.”
Aldesing departed for his room on the upper floor to change and wash the stink of grease-fryers off himself. Wess sighed, and looked down to the floor at Sylvannamyth, then at Harry.
“I find it very sad that I both speak the language, am a native to this land, and have all my mental faculties, and I still can’t figure this place out.”
Snow Wolf carefully prepared the furs, skinning the heads, extracting the brains, then setting the heads to boil so they could be cleaned of flesh. As she and Athsfalia worked on them, they could hear Aldesing in the next room speaking to Wess.
“That is not a happy prince,” said Snow Wolf.
“Not sure I would be either,” said Athsfalia. “Can you imagine being told who to spend your life with?”
She gave him a sidelong look. “Yes. I can. You see, I have a vagina. Apparently that means I am incapable of making any choices in life, and if I was a little more timid and dutiful, I would not be with Hercandoloff out there. I would be with the moron my father brought home from the bar for me.”
“Yeah I keep forgetting about stuff like that. Well if I have a daughter someday, I promise you she will not be marrying anybody she doesn’t want to. So, if our mage out there accomplishes what he’s setting out to do, who will you be?”
Her green eyes gleamed. “I will resurrect the cult of the Moon Goddess, eat raw meat, roll in guts, and be Lord General of the Armies!”
“Such a darling and dainty maid, you are.”
“I just HATE people talking to me like a small and not especially bright animal. I’m just as smart as he is, I’m certainly stronger than he is, I know how to fight, I know how battle tactics work, I could organize a strike…”
“Snow you don’t have to convince me. That’s why we’re all here, remember? You don’t need to explain to me that women are people too. We’re all just doing our best to make the world a better place.” Athsfalia ran his hand over the cold skin. “I think we should keep these.”
“Keep them? And do what with them? Wear them to the corner store to buy eggs?”
“Well we keep talking about when Hercandoloff accomplishes his goal. That is
what we are all doing here, that is
what we are fighting for. That’s why Wess is stealing books and you are working to support him and why I’m busking on street corners and studying at the Temple of Drakkaus. So let’s assume he finds the well. Let’s assume he opens it. Let’s assume people recognize us as their benevolent dictators. We’re going to need clothes.”
Snow Wolf grinned at him. “And who are we going to drape in Royal Mycinocroft?”
“The only person here who is truly entitled to wear it. We have a virgin prince of the Creator in our house. Why not make something for him?”
“Why not?! It’ll be great! I’m a tailor, you can work fur…”
“Well what did you have in mind?”
“Something amazing, something really archaic with lots of layers and boning and…”
“And you can make this?” Snow Wolf said, clearly unconvinced.
“Of course I can! All we need are…. Hi!”
Athsfalia’s attention was drawn by a small form in the doorway, a small young man with eyes like blue diamonds, and long white hair.
“Hi,” said the man.
There was a long, uncomfortable silence between the two, then the man spoke.
“There’s a good crowd down at the Black Cherry Hotel. People are in the lobby to get warm. I thought we could… y’know… play.”
Snow Wolf rolled her eyes as Athsfalia looked to her. “Blue and I have crowds to entertain.”
“Uh huh. I’ll just sit here and play with dead animals.”
“Mycinocroft are not animals,” growled Blue. “They’re magical creatures. They’re sentient and intelligent.”
“Okay,” said Snow Wolf quietly. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Why did you kill them?” he demanded.
“We didn’t,” said Snow Wolf. “We found them dead. We took the pelts, yes, but we did not kill them.”
Blue looked to Athsfalia, as if he didn’t trust Snow Wolf.
“It’s the truth,” said Athsfalia. “Look, see? They killed each other. We don’t know why but we can say they were dead when we found them.”
Blue moved closer, looking down at the cuts and tears in the male’s snout. “I wonder what they were fighting about?” He looked to Athsfalia with eyes like diamonds. “What are you going to do with them?”
Snow Wolf rolled her eyes. She had no idea exactly what Blue was, but his eye colour alone was enough to tell her he wasn’t human. That and the way he openly disliked humans.
“Well we thought we would make something for Aldesing,” said Athsfalia.
Blue seemed to forget about hating people for a moment, and his eyes brightened. “For Aldesing? For when we open the wells?”
Blue scurried out of the kitchen and went racing off to his room. Snow Wolf looked at Athsfalia.
“So does he hate us all the time or just most of the time?”
“He really doesn’t hate any of us,” he said. “Blue is just… angry. He has a lot to be angry about. I’m sorry. I wish I could tell you but I promised I wouldn’t.”
“So you know what the issue is.”
“He has told me most of it, yes. Please forgive him, for me?”
“Athsfalia as far as I can tell he hasn’t done anything I have to forgive him for, I just wish he would trust us a little. Okay, he’s angry, and he has reason. But we all have reason to be angry! I get treated like a moronic sub-human for the crime of not having a penis, my husband gets treated like some lazy mooching bastard because he lets his wife support him in his studies. You lost every friend you had because you’re not rich anymore. It’s not a contest as to who has been kicked in the teeth harder. What it comes down to is we have six people in this house actively working to achieve one goal
. Harry and Growlie don’t really count, they’re just sort of along for the ride, and Ilenya is too young, but unless we all support each other and look after each other and get along together, it’s all just for nothing.”
“You’re right,” said a voice softly, as Blue walked back into the kitchen, holding a book. “I keep getting lost in my own issues but… I do want to be here. I do want to help. I do want to be part of what Hercandoloff is trying to do. It’s just… hard sometimes to see past the hurt.”
Snow Wolf walked over to him and hugged him hard. “Blue we are your friends. I know that is not always easy to believe but… we are.”
“I know. It’s just… well… enough about things I don’t want to talk about. I’m going to change the subject. Look what I have.”
Snow Wolf released Blue, and he walked to the table, setting down a book and opening it. The little bard was an endless source of surprise; it was a child’s book of fairy stories. Blue flipped to a page with a speed that suggested he knew this book well, and pointed to a picture of a man. He was tall and regal and beautiful, with skin the colour of ice, and eyes the colour of a winter morning. He was wearing a beautiful outfit of white, with a cape edged in fur – white mycinocroft, with black tips on the ears.
“It’s the Unicorn Prince,” said Blue in a quiet, almost apologetic voice. “He’s my favourite hero.”
Athsfalia and Snow Wolf studied the painting, while Blue looked from one to the other hopefully. Then Athsfalia smiled, slipping an arm around Blue.
“Very well. We have our pattern.”
Hercandoloff sat on the steps of the great stone university, Athsfalia beside him. Both were nibbling sandwiches, watching Wess sprint across campus at a speed that would have had the track team coach salivating. Hot on his heels were three police officers.
“Do you think they found out about the book?” asked Hercandoloff.
“More likely they found his stash of dragon weed,” said Athsfalia. “If they thought we had a multi-million gold book they wouldn’t be bothering to chase him around campus. He’s fast, isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is,” said Hercandoloff. “Hold on, he’s reversing course.”
Wess was indeed reversing course, charging straight for Hercandoloff and Athsfalia, who simply sat and watched. He approached the stairs upon which they sat from the side, tearing across the green lawn and launching himself over the stone rail. He tripped, but whether intentionally or not, they could not tell. They did notice he managed to plunk a small item into Athsfalia’s leather book bag before catching himself and racing up the steps and into the building. The police, unaware that Wess had dropped something into the bag, kept after him, although one paused to tip his hat at Hercandoloff.
“Are you all right, Miss?”
Hercandoloff fluttered his eyelashes at the officer, and said sweetly, “Yes, thank you officer, it’s so nice of you to ask.”
The cop grinned broadly, as if the little would-be mage had just made his day. He then turned to go bounding after Wess.
“Poor cop,” said Hercandoloff. “What did our resident scoff-law drop into your bag?”
“A small bag containing funny-colour incense, a couple dragon-weed cigarettes, and…. A ring?”
“He’s stealing rings now?”
“Apparently.” Athsfalia checked his watch. “I have 45 minutes before my next lecture. I am going to run this home and hopefully get back in time for my 2pm class. I have no idea why he grabbed this, but he must have had a reason. Wess does nothing without…. reason….”
Athsfalia’s words trailed off, and he and Hercandoloff watched their friend go tearing across campus, stark naked, waving a flag that read “FREE ‘MOODY’ SIERACHIN!!”
“Maybe you should also see if we have money for bail,” said Hercandoloff.
“Forget it, I promised Blue dinner out tonight.”
“Who is Moody Sierachin?”
“I have no idea and I am reluctant to ask. See you in class.”
Athsfalia left. Hercandoloff watched Wess streak across campus.
“I really hope I know what I’m doing,” said Hercandoloff.
It was almost three in the morning when next Hercandoloff saw Wess, soaking wet and limping. Hercandoloff turned a page on the ancient tome, noting the limp.
“Did we pull a tendon?”
“NO! They gave me a cavity search. Bastards. Did you get the ring? And my weed?”
“Yes and yes, but why the ring?” Hercandoloff drew out the heavy golden ring, and looked at the clear green-gold stone mounted to it. “Please tell me you are at least breaking the law for a reason.”
Wess seated himself, albeit rather painfully, on the couch, taking hold of the ring. He pressed lightly upon the stone, and it opened to reveal something within; a tiny sliver of what looked to be grey wood.
“What is this?” asked Hercandoloff.
“This, my pretty little friend, is a piece of bone from a deepwater fish known as a prophet fish. Said to be able to predict the future. No one knows if that is true or not, but what the ancients believed was that a piece of bone from this fish sealed into a gem or bit of silver could give a person the ability to understand languages. I thought Harry could use it.”
“Does look to be about Harry’s size. We could give it to him.” Hercandoloff returned the bone shard to the ring. He looked to the enormous sleeping lump on the sofa, then leaned forward to slip the ring onto his hand. Harry stirred, then opened his brown eyes.
“Do you understand us now?” asked Wess.
Harry sat up abruptly, looking afraid and surprised. “Yes! Yes I do! What magic is this?!”
“The ring we gave you,” said Hercandoloff. “It enables you to understand us.”
“It’s a miracle! You have my unending gratitude. I would have eventually come to understand you, but… this is such a relief. Thank you. I have so many questions…”
“I am sure you do,” said Wess. “And now we can answer them all for you. First of all, you may stay here with us. At least until you are comfortable enough to move on. We will look after you.”
“You have my thanks. This land of yours is truly strange to me, and I understand none of it. You have my word I will do my best to be of no burden to you.”
“We know,” said Wess quietly. “Now let me show you to your room. I know you must have a lot of questions, but…”
“I have a room?”
“Yes. We tried explaining that to you for the last two months, but…”
The door upstairs opened, then closed. There was the sound of footsteps hurrying down the steps, and Athsfalia and Snow Wolf emerged into the room. Snow Wolf was clutching a bundle wrapped in bloody cloth, and Athsfalia was holding a hatchet and a shovel. Both were soaking wet from the rain, covered in mud and looking very guilty.
“This is a lot more innocent than it looks,” said Athsfalia.
“Grave robbing always is,” said Wess.
“At least I didn’t drop the corpse into your school bag while the cops were chasing you,” muttered Athsfalia.
Snow Wolf and Athsfalia carried whatever gruesome prize they had into the kitchen and proceeded to chop it up. Wess looked to Hercandoloff.
“Bet you’re glad you’re a vegetarian.”
“And getting more so by the minute,” said Hercandoloff.
And so the days went on – school, work, study, and a little incidental theft. Most of the items Hercandoloff required for his magic were either illegal or shockingly expensive, and his tiny collection of believers and friends were often reduced to digging for scraps. Wess was generally the provider of the things that violated the laws, because Wess, like many followers of the elven god of war and philosophy, simply didn’t recognize laws he regarded as nonsensical. Who in their right mind could try to place a law upon a plant? The plant had no concept of mortal laws! It was purely ridiculous. So Wess happily pilfered and planted and cultivated a veritable farm of plants with highly toxic and hallucinatory properties, acquiring whatever his wizard needed by whatever means necessary. And he wasn’t shy about admitting it, as he made quite clear when he came home with a case of wine, looking very pleased with himself.
“Wess where did you manage to get real battlefield rose wine?” Snow Wolf asked.
“Oh it was easy. I gave a pirate what money I had and then let him have his way with me. What’s for dinner?”
“Wess,” said Hercandoloff quietly, “What if I never find the well of magic and get it open?”
He shrugged. “Then I suppose I will do what everyone else is doing – watch the world around me rot and pretend I don’t notice. I’m going to put this someplace safe.”
Hercandoloff shook his head, then slumped back against the sofa on which he sat and brought the heels of his hands up to his eyes.
“I hope to all the gods I know what I am doing. This is such a big task for the six of us. Everyone is trying so hard, and all I do is worry I can’t keep my promises.”
“We all knew the risk,” said Snow Wolf. “That there may not be a well to find. But we have to keep looking. We may be out of our minds or grossly naïve but at least we
“Yes, you are right. Speaking of trying, what is it exactly you and Athsfalia are up to?”
She kissed him. “It’s a secret.”
“It seemed to involve a lot of dead animal parts.”
“That’s only because it does, but don’t worry – we’re not up to anything evil.”
“So the dead animal parts are for… what?”
“Soup of course.”
“Uh huh. I think I will be having carrots for dinner.”
She smiled. “We found a dead deer on the road. We took the meat and some of the bones to use as boning in a coat. It’s perfectly good venison, there was no reason to let it rot when our finances are so tight.”
“I still think I prefer carrots.”
Late fall turned to winter. The relentless rain turned to snow, and the schools and universities closed as the snow piled too high for anyone to reach them. Businesses shut down, the power went out on a daily basis, and all of Twin Lakes braced itself against the worst storm in years.
Within the house, peace reigned. Hercandoloff, Wess, and Aldesing attended to their studying, as did Athsfalia, when he wasn’t helping Snow Wolf with her mystery project. Blue worked on his music, and Ilenya played in the snow, digging whole underlying warrens that led to wherever it was he wished to go. Sylvannamyth dozed beside the hearth like some great and strange dog, and Harry just tried to get along as best he could in a world that made no sense to him. In other words – Harry drank until he passed out every single day.
“Well at least he has some use,” said Snow Wolf as she set her sewing basket on his back.
“The man has issues,” said Athsfalia, carefully pinning and ironing a seam.
“We all do, that’s why we’re here,” said Snow Wolf. She shook her head. “I will be so glad when this outfit is done…”
Aldesing had some idea they were making an outfit for him, because he had been measured often enough, but he was locked out of the sewing room on the main floor where the majority of the work was taking place. How Harry had managed to get in there was a matter of speculation, but Athsfalia and Snow Wolf had too much to do to worry about it. But as the cold dark days rolled on, they worked and worked, and Harry drank and drank. Despite his vow to be no burden, he was becoming a gigantic pain in the neck.
“We have to do something about him,” said Wess to Hercandoloff and Aldesing, who were in the living room of the basement apartment. “He’s been into the rose wine. I tried explaining to him that it could do him serious harm but he’s not listening! He’s going to find the last five bottles and poison himself. That wine is for ceremonial use only, it can really hurt him.”
“I know,” said Hercandoloff, “but we can’t throw him out in the winter snow. Look, come spring, we will ask him to move out.”
“What will we do with the wine in the mean time?” asked Wess. “It’s sacred to Shallougha. I don’t mind him stealing the cheap stuff, but he’s messing with my religion.”
“Take it to my room,” said Aldesing. “I have a lock on the door of the closet where I keep that tome you stole. It might keep him out of it.”
Wess nodded, and was about to get the remaining five bottles, when Harry walked into the room. He had clearly been drinking the bottle he stole, and his brown eyes were glazed and staring. Wess, Aldesing and Hercandoloff watched him, more than a little worried he was going to need a doctor and having no way to currently reach one. He stared into space, gazing at things the other three could not see.
“Harry?” said Wess quietly. “Are you okay?”
Harry continued to stare for a long moment, then at last he spoke.
“It is under the great stone in the center of the valley, hidden there for centuries by the nine who came before.”
The three exchanged glances, then Hercandoloff slowly stood up to face Harry. “What is hidden, Harry?”
“A great well that gives no water, but brings forth light and good things of the earth. A well of light, blocked by the gods, hidden by nine, and nine will make it shine once more.”
Then his eyes rolled back in his head, he rocked to and fro slightly, and finally fell over backwards in a stupefied heap. Hercandoloff hopped over his supine body and ran out of the room, up the stairs and to the small library on the main floor. Wess and Aldesing chased after him.
“What did he say?” asked Wess. “Herc, do you know what that drunken lump is rambling about?”
“He’s not from our land, he couldn’t know!” Hercandoloff called back.
“Know what?” demanded Wess. “Here, you slow down right now, you’ll be sick. Your lungs aren’t strong enough for this!”
They chased the tiny would-be mage into the library, and watched him tug at a large book high on a shelf. Aldesing took it down for him and set it on a table, watching as Hercandoloff opened the book.
“Harry is not from our world. He can’t know about the Crystal Mages. He can’t know there were nine of them, and he can’t know about THIS.”
Hercandoloff found a page with a photo of a valley, and pointed at it. Wess and Aldesing leaned forward to gaze at what appeared to be a boulder of truly gigantic proportions resting in the center of a wide, flat valley surrounded by mountains.
“What is that?” asked Wess.
“It’s the Stone of Harridan,” said Hercandoloff. “There is a story that says Harridan, the god of storms and disasters, at the beseeching of the Crystal Mages, blocked the well of magic beneath it with that stone.”
“Well that’s just an old tale,” said Aldesing.
“Yes,” said Hercandoloff. “But how in all the ages of this land would Harry
know that? He wouldn’t! How could he?”
“Do you think maybe he… had some vision?” asked Wess.
“The wine is a known hallucinogen,” said Hercandoloff. “Priests of Shallougha have been drinking it for years to foresee the future and make prophecies. Maybe it’s allowing Harry to do the same thing. Maybe Harry has some abilities as a Seer. Maybe Harry… annoying
as he is… is part of this.”
“Oh great creation, that means we have to keep him,” moaned Wess, bringing the heels of his hands up to his eyes.
“Wess, you’re being judgemental,” Aldesing gently chided.
“He’s a great drunken boob….” moaned Wess.
“He stays,” said Hercandoloff. “I hereby declare him Seer. So that brings us up to seven. Only two more and we have a complete court.”
“Why are we calling ourselves the Court again?” asked Athsfalia.
“What should we call ourselves?” asked Hercandoloff. “The Thieving Peasants? That’s great for a music group but hardly inspires confidence.”
“I don’t know, I like it,” said Aldesing.
“We have to keep him,” moaned Wess.
Hercandoloff patted him on the shoulder. “It’s okay, Wess. Shallougha does nothing without a reason.”
It was almost spring, and the snow was finally beginning to relent as Athsfalia and Snow Wolf finished the ensemble for Aldesing. They stepped back to admire the assembled outfit as it hung on the dressmaker’s dummy, a work of utter beauty.
“Needs a bit of a wash,” said Snow Wolf. “It has a few smudges.”
“If I never see white fabric again it will be too soon,” said Athsfalia.
“I wish we could have added some colour,” said Snow Wolf, reaching out to stroke the fur of one of the two mycinocroft that formed the edge of the cloak.
“No,” said Athsfalia, “we can’t. He’s a virgin, he has to be absolutely untouched, and any “impure colours” signify he has been defiled.”
“I can’t wait to see him in this, he’s going to look so
gorgeous. Come on, you wash the coat, I’ll wash the shirt and breeches.”
They carried the clothes to the wash tub in the upstairs kitchen, which was larger than the one downstairs, and filled it with cool water. Carefully they began cleaning away the faint traces of dirt. Then, as the washing was done and Athsfalia held up the magnificent white coat, he froze. Snow Wolf glanced at him, and noticed a look of utter horror on his face. She was about to ask him what the problem was, when she saw what he was staring at. Perfectly visible between the two layers of white fabric, now turned translucent by the water, was a single purple thread.
“Tell me that is not in the coat,” she said.
“It’s in the coat,” confirmed Athsfalia.
“It can’t be! How could it get there?! We weren’t even using any purple fabric! Where did it come from?!”
“I have no idea, but that is a purple thread in between the layers of white fabric.”
“Well can we remove it?” asked Snow Wolf.
Athsfalia stared at the offending thread, mocking them with its purpleness. He thought about all the ironing, folding, pressing, basting, stretching, pinning….
“Well we probably could,” said Athsfalia. “The question is, do we want to after all the work we did?”
They stared at the thread. The thread stared back.
“Screw it,” said Snow Wolf. “We’ll tell him after he gets married.”
***---***ROUGHLY ONE THOUSAND YEARS LATER –
Prince Monshikka Starlit, newly married, awoke in his bed beside his new husband. Wess was still asleep, nestled down into the pillows, unmoving and exhausted. Monshikka kissed him gently, then, suddenly had a very strange sensation he was not alone. He turned his head, and saw Misty and The Moonhound, perched on the foot of his bed, grinning manically.
“What do you two gargoyles want?” he asked sleepily.
Misty positively giggled, then lilted; “We have a seeee-cret….”