Lady Moonrain, Priestess of the Beast Mother, Flidais, had been first surprised and then somewhat shyly pleased by the young elf’s formal courtesies, but it was clear the wounded Lord of Ereon needed immediate attention. So when the pleasantries were interrupted impatiently by the eorman girl, Lady Moonrain merely nodded and gestured to the temple acolytes, a motley assembly of beast-like forest fae.
“By all means it is possible,” she answered Lotye. “These waters were a gift from Dian Cecht to our Lady Flidais so that we may better serve her devotees. I myself studied at the Grand Temple of the Healing God, and achieved the Fifth Rank of Surgeon and Seventh of Potioner. Quickly now, prepare him.”
In a matter of moments, the stretcher was laid beside one of the dark pools, and the faerie set about stripping Lord Jeneyeru of his clothes while Lady Moonrain cut away the bandages and examined the wound. Jeneyeru opened his eyes during the process and was conscious enough to answer Lady Moonrain’s questions and to wave a reassuring hand to Lotye. A thread as slender a hair and as long as a mountain stream was tied to his wrist, and with a gentle invocation in Atul, the patient was heaved over into the pool where he sank with barely a ripple beneath the black surface.
— — —
Down and down and down Jeneyeru sank. The water was warm and black as death, but neither the depth nor the darkness held any terrors for the Selkie and Shadow Master. He gave himself up to the water, into the arms of the mother of the elves of the sea, the arms of Lyr’s beloved in which the sea-god sleeps. The words of Moonrain’s healing spell vibrated through the thread attached to his wrist, but at some point, as he floated there, another voice tickled his senses. A voice that seemed to be trying to call his name from very far away. He thought it was a voice he knew, though at first he could not be sure.
The elves of the sea are no strangers to the underseas, and Selkies can hold their breath far longer than just about any race or tribe in Aeldreth but the Merrows of the Deeps. Still, Jeneyeru had no sense of how long he’d been in the healing well. All he knew was that someone began to tug on the thread on his wrist at just about the same time he caught a glimpse in his mind of who was calling him. The Lord Magus’s eyes shot open, suddenly awake, and blind to either pain or lack of pain, he kicked for the surface.
Breaking the mirrored pool with a loud, echoing splash, the Selkie lord grasped the thin white hand of Lady Moonrain.
“My thanks, Lady,” he panted.
“My Lord!” cried Thimble, rushing to help Jeneyeru out of the pool and up onto the rocky ledge around it.
“Be careful, milord,” said the priestess. While the valet rubbed a drying cloth over Jeneyeru’s hair, Lady Moonrain leaned in to examine the wound again. “The waters have closed the flesh nicely, but it requires a few stitches to keep it whole for a while yet. Come lie upon the cushions.”
Jeneyeru obediently allowed himself to be laid down so that Lady Moonrain could “sew him up tight as a billet,” as promised by her Brownie admirer. While Thimble fussed with cloths to cover his modesty and the needle bit and slipped through his skin, Jeneyeru called out to the others.
“Where is my brother? Where is Captain Lafitte? How long have I been incapacitated? We must prepare for Mount Isolla, for I have seen a little of what awaits us there.”
— — —
Meanwhile, above the ground and below La Danse Calinda, Baugl of Caernith and Ashcat of Sesus were so incensed with each other that they never noticed the parties they were incensed about approaching.
Peino Starhand prepared his weapons and his stance, watching and judging tactics, ready to take whomever would be left standing as the two goblins tore at each other with the long-handled, heavy-bladed axes. Ruili ran up from the other side, the gleaming sword Atasen shining through the blood of those he’d cut his way through, Y’lanna and Haug Handslayer not far away.
While each of the Selkies paused to consider the targets before them, the First Mate of the Calinda did not hesitate. A clear view of Baugl presented itself in the bandits’ brutal dance, and Beau Bergeron’s dagger found its mark in the huge man’s unarmored thigh. Down went Baugl of Caernith with a bellow. He crashed into Ashcat, causing the Sesan to stagger under his bulk and fight to push him off. Beau’s knife broke in Baugl’s leg. Blood spurted from the wound, as the goblin rolled in the mud desperately trying to grasp the severed artery.
“Who threw that knife?” Ashcat yelled, furious at having his kill taken from him.
“What difference does it make?” replied Peino, raising his blades.
“You,” Ashcat growled at the Selkie, “It was YOU!”
He rushed Peino, swinging the axe. He feinted to the elf’s head, then switched low to his torso. Peino blocked the axe with the forte of his sword as if it were a shield. Grunting with the agonizing shock of the collision shivering through his arm, he glided the blade along the shaft, and his body with it, and turned to plunge his dagger deep into Ashcat’s kidney.
His momentum carried him clear as Ashcat fell to his knees, but no respite was to be had. Roaring his rage, Ashcat struggled to his feet and made to swing the heavy axe once more. Instinctively, Peino thrust his rapier into the man’s heart. Rage burned in the goblin’s eyes as he stared up at the elf. Rage stayed frozen in those eyes as he died and fell. Peino let the body slide off his blade and stepped back.
“Pei!” Ruili rushed to his brother’s side. “Are you injured?”
“No,” Peino said. “What of you?”
Ruili rubbed some blood off his face and looked at it. “Not mine. What did he mean, it was you?”
Peino looked down at the dead man lying close by the other dead man, both awash in their own blood. He did not recognize him from Sesus, the City of Masks. “I have no idea,” he said. “Who else have we to deal with?”
“Well, I’m not sure, old sprat, but I think we’ve won.”
“Oh.” Peino looked around through the rain and the smoke at the chaos of a battle ended. “Excellent. Well done.”
“Yes, now what do you propose to do with the prisoners?”
“Prisoners?” The brothers cocked an eyebrow at each other in identical expressions. “Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of that.”