Krysila conspires with Midhir to ensnare the brownies
|King Midhir lounged luxuriantly across one of the richly carved settles in Glimfyndor’s parlour. He had made a daybed out of it using one of the embroidered wall hangings. It amused him that, though Glimfyndor would take offence at this, he would say nothing against The Dagda’s son. Even better Glimfyndor had informed him as politely as he could that hunting was not the custom in the woods of Glorlinderin since the elves were vegetarians. Stretching as comfortable as a recumbent lynx, Midhir had told him that it was his custom to move from friend to friend and hunt in their woods. He assured Glimfyndor that he should be honoured that he had paid him a visit after that detestable business with the brownies ruining the last Seelie Court by objecting to being ousted from the woods of Novgorad where they had settled.
Nibbling the meat off the bones of a songbird that he had killed, Midhir smiled malevolently at a hedgehog carved upon the back of the settle. His mirth increased as Glimfyndor and his wife, Amulas, appeared.
‘I trust you are making yourself comfortable?’ Glimfyndor inquired with forced politeness, eyeing the crumpled tapestry.
Midhir smirked. ‘As you see. Another glass of rosehip wine would be most welcome.’
‘Of course. If you’ll excuse me though, first you have some visitors. They look rather suspicious characters and perhaps you don’t know them. My guards sensed that there was something not quite as it should be about them and wished to detain them.’
Behind Glimfyndor, Midhir glimpsed one of his visitors; a wizened old fairy shrunk into her immense white cap. She had insisted on following Glimfyndor up.
‘Yes, I know her. She has come on private business. Please go now.’ Midhir flicked his hand dismissively at Glimfyndor and Amulas, displeased by the disturbance. ‘Well,’ he demanded crustily once the door had shut with a satisfying clunk.
The fairy did not answer immediately, which vexed Midhir as he was used to being obeyed. Not only did the fairy place herself above him, she evidently valued their privacy highly. Not until the sound of the footsteps of the Light Elves had completely retreated did she sit down and remove her cap. As she did so she began to change, the years falling away and a strong-featured sídhe with tightly swept back dark hair appearing. She shook her head at his offer of wine.
‘I have found something that I wish to show to you. It concerns the brownies,’ Midhir’s visitor rasped out darkly.
‘Oh, not them,’ Midhir said in excessive mock horror. Having no respect for the powerful dark magic that his visitor possessed he went on, ‘couldn’t you have sent your dishy daughter with the news instead? Come, Krysila, where is she?’
Seeing that Midhir was peeved, Krysila rose and did as he bid. She had no qualms about complying, truculent though Leanan looked about meeting Midhir.
‘Leanan Sídhe.’ Midhir showed all his gums in what he supposed to be a courteous and attractive smile as mother and daughter entered.
Leanan Sídhe’s dark hair fell like coiling serpents over the metallic green-black scales of her bodice that opened into a v-tailed skirt revealing her hunting boots. Her face was stunningly beautiful, yet her red eyes had a changeable lustre.
Though he had long desired her, Midhir was not sure that she returned his feelings, nor of her allegiances. In any case she had powerful magic and he treated her cautiously.
‘It seems that you have been hunting, Lady Leanan. A fine pursuit; I have just been about it myself. Here, why don’t you share the fruits of my labour?’ He pushed a salver of stewed song thrushes towards his guests. Both refused, looking at him as if he were totally misplaced in his triviality.
Midhir folded his hands meekly. ‘I hear that you have brought me something.’
Leanan Sídhe withdrew a book from her full, trailing sleeves.
‘Are those love poems from one of your many inspired admirers, or penned by your own fair hand?’ Midhir asked her in what he hoped was a winning tone, alluding to Leanan Sídhe’s role as the deadly muse of bards. He was keen to flatter her as he regretted rashly taking her life the last time that they had met.
‘Neither. This was made in Velmoran by Lady Frenudin. It tells the story of her life. It was intended for her son, for it contains evidence of the right of the brownies to keep Velmoran and, what is more, damning evidence against you. It would be well to keep it hidden to avoid it falling into the hands of your enemies.’ Krysila eyed Midhir with a polite threat.
‘How did you come by this?’ Midhir asked, his usual poise shaken by the revelation.
‘We found it with the girl Aira when we sacked her haven with the dryads. Boroden Ulfharen was a fool to leave her unprotected. He should have suspected that anyone tracking him would come across her. As for Boroden he is now firmly in my grasp. I track his every move.’
‘I’m surprised that you took things so seriously. Surely you have no fear of him actually making it to Velmoran, let alone challenging you? What of Lady Aira? She’s alive?’
‘Yes, and fortunately powerless without the circlet of Frenudin. She was fool enough to give it to Boroden and now I may easily move to take it from him.’
‘You mean that bracelet that the wizard bestowed upon Aira?’ Midhir asked.
‘First it was Frenudin’s given to her by her father. It shows her right to rule Velmoran and command the loyalty of its inhabitants.’
‘You want the book I suppose?’
‘Does it come with a price?’
‘Only your allegiance when the time comes.’
‘Gladly. Now perhaps you would be so good as to leave. I grow tired,’ Midhir sighed, feigning indifference.
Krysila needed no word from him but was already setting forth.
Once the visitors had gone Midhir gingerly flicked the book open. He spoke the incantation low and unwillingly before becoming immersed in the wounds of the past, knowing that this time the full picture was to be revealed to him in all its distastefulness.
When he emerged, he was quaking with fury, yet with fear too. He knew that he was in the wrong and that this could now so easily be discovered. He crushed the book tightly closed as if willing it to turn into dust.
Aira knew yet she had not spoken. There was every likelihood that she would not reveal the truth out of respect to her ancestor. Even if Boroden knew and spoke it would be his word against Midhir’s and the sídhe could easily make Boroden sound worthless and unfounded. Yes, with care he might win and bury this black spot in his life from sight.
Midhir hurled the book on top of the blazing heat of the logs in the grate. The sound brought concerned footsteps.
‘Are you all right, King Midhir?’ Amulas asked, her needle still in her hand. She left her work with gold thread at the embroidery frame set before a window to go to her guest.
‘Perfectly,’ Midhir replied. In no mood for her company he strode out calling to his hunting hounds.
Amulas looked quickly about like a careful badger emerging from its sett. Then she fell on her knees by the fire, beckoning its flames to subside. The cover of the book was blackened but it was bound thickly with kelpie hide and even more strongly with magic.
Glimfynor emerged for behind the tapestry where he had been hiding in order to spy upon Midhir’s suspicious visitors. He took the tome reverently. ‘Aira is a brave and just maid, doubly so for not speaking of this before the Seelie Court. Yet this truth cannot be hidden. Frenudin entrusted her story to her family so that they might use it if the time came. She knew that there would be those, especially Midhir, who would oppose Peladach’s clan.’
‘I will try and contact Aira by thought. It will not be easy for she is untutored in such magic. Yet, she is a sister in spirit to me and there is a bond between us,’ Amulas said.
‘That would be excellent, Amulas. I mean to set out today and take Frenudin’s memory book with me. I must reach The Dagda as quickly as I may, for the brownies are in even greater danger than ever.’