A kraken, Krysila, conspires with elven king Midhir to ensnare the brownies
|King Midhir lounged luxuriantly across a richly carved settle in Glimfyndor’s tree house. He had made a daybed out of it using one of the embroidered wall hangings. How amusing that, though Glimfyndor would take offence at this, the courteous Light Elf king would say nothing against The Dagda’s son. Even better, Glimfyndor had informed him politely that hunting was not customary in the woods of Glorlinderin, since Light Elves were vegetarians. Stretching as comfortable as a recumbent lynx, Midhir bared his teeth in a grin at the memory of how he had told him that it was his custom to move from friend to friend and hunt in their woods. Glimfyndor should be honoured that he paid him a visit after the brownies ruined the last Seelie Court held in the Woods of Glorlinderin by objecting to being ousted from Novgorad where they had settled.
Nibbling the meat off the bones of a songbird killed during the hunt, Midhir smiled malevolently at a hedgehog carved upon the back of the settle. His mirth increased as Glimfyndor appeared.
‘I trust you are making yourself comfortable?’ Glimfyndor inquired, a forced smile upon his fair features as he eyed 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 — brownies,’ Glimfyndor said, faltering as Midhir narrowed his eyes. ‘Though perhaps you don’t wish to see them.’
Behind Glimfyndor’s velvet robed figure, Midhir glimpsed one of his visitors, a slight brownie matron shrunk into her immense white cap. Those obsidian eyes were unmistakable and he pieced together who this visitor must be.
Glimfyndor’s wife, Amulas, hastened in pursuit of her husband A dark-haired brownie warrior woman followed Amulas, dragging her feet and sidling into the chamber as if she would rather be anywhere else.
Noticing Midhir, Amulas gave an apologetic curtsy. ‘I’m sorry, she insisted on coming up to see you, Sire.’
‘Yes, I know her. She’s come on private business. Please go now.’ Midhir flicked his manicured hand dismissively at Glimfyndor and Amulas, displeased by the disturbance.
Once Amulas shut the door with a satisfying clunk, Midhir took up a bearing of confidence and utter indifference as he shifted from his elegant recumbent posture into a sitting position. ‘Well?’
The brownie matron did not answer immediately, which vexed Midhir. He was used to being obeyed. Not only did the brownie place herself above him, she evidently valued their privacy highly. Only when time enough passed for the Light Elves to retreat out of earshot did she sit down and remove her cap. As she did so she began to change and grow, the years falling away and a strong-featured sídhe with tightly coiffed dark hair appearing.
Midhir quirked an eyebrow. ‘Krysila — help yourself to some wine.’
She shook her head at his offer. ‘I’ve found something that I wish to show to you. It concerns the brownies.’
‘Oh, not them,’ Midhir said in excessive mock horror, having no respect for the powerful dark magic that his visitor possessed. ‘Couldn’t you have sent your dishy daughter with the news instead? Come, Krysila, where is she? I hope you revived her from the dead as I asked?’
Krysila rose. ‘There’s no need to be peeved with me, Midhir. Leanan!’
Midhir licked his lips as the beguiling sídhe lady cast off her disguise in answer to her mother’s call, although he was sorry she looked so truculent about meeting him.
‘Lady Leanan.’ Midhir showed all his gums in what he supposed to be a courteous and attractive smile.
He drank in how her dappled mahogany 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 felt unsure that she returned his feelings, nor of her allegiances.
‘It seems that you’ve been hunting, Lady Leanan. A fine pursuit, I’ve 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’ve 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 in what he believed was a winning tone, hoping to please Leanan by alluding to her role as the deadly muse of bards. He regretted rashly taking her life the last time that they met and was keen to flatter her.
Krysila eyed Midhir with a veiled threat. ‘Neither. This was made in Velmoran by its first queen, the sídhe 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.’
‘How did you come by this?’ Midhir asked, his usual poise shaken by the revelation.
‘We found it with Aira when we sacked her haven with the dryads. Boroden Ulfharen foolishly left her unprotected. He should have suspected that anyone tracking him would come across her. As for Boroden, he’s now firmly in my grasp. My spies follow his every move.’
‘I’m surprised 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?’ Midhir asked.
‘Yes, though she’s lost in the wilds and her claim that Velmoran is her birthright inherited from her ancestor, Lady Frenudin, is tenuous now she does not have this book.’
‘You want the book I suppose?’ Krysila asked.
‘Does it come with a price?’
‘Only your allegiance when the time comes.’
‘Gladly. Now, perhaps you’d be so good as to leave. I grow bored,’ Midhir sighed, feigning indifference.
Thankfully, Krysila was already setting forth. Although, he rather regretted how Leanan pushed ahead of her mother without a backwards glance at him.
Once the visitors left, 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 would be revealed to him in all its distastefulness.
When he emerged, he quaked with fear and fury. The book presented him as the villain in the history of the brownie clan. If others uncovered its story, he would be reviled. He crushed the book tightly closed as if willing it to turn into dust.
Midhir realised that Aira knew, yet she had not spoken. In all likelihood, 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 he 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. He huffed as the sound brought concerned footsteps pattering into the room.
‘Are you all right, King Midhir?’ Amulas asked, her embroidery needle still in her hand.
‘Perfectly,’ Midhir replied. In no mood for her company, he strode out calling to his hunting hounds.
Amulas looked about as carefully as a badger emerging from its sett. Then she fell on her knees by the fire, beckoning its flames to subside. Using a cooling spell, she lifted the book from the grate. The cover appeared blackened, but it was bound thickly with kelpie hide and even more strongly with magic.
Amulas shook her head with a grin as she spotted her husband’s head of golden curls emerge from behind the tapestry where he had hid. Clearly, she wasn’t the only one keen to spy upon Midhir’s suspicious visitors.
Glimfyndor took the tome reverently. ‘Aira is a brave and just maiden, 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 oppose Peladach’s clan.’
‘We must protect Frenudin’s memory book from Midhir at all costs. If only we could find a way to get it back to Aira…’
‘One day we shall, though now I have a more pressing use for it. This book proves that the brownies should have Velmoran. Perhaps some agreement might be reached between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts without bloodshed? I must get word to The Dagda, for the brownies are in even greater danger now that Midhir and Krysila are conspiring together.’
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