Boroden joins forces with a flying pony to help his fellow brownies escape an evil king
|‘You have little choice. Slavery or death. You’re no fool, Leon. You know Boroden Ulfharen is a moron. You should give him up. Join my palace servants; you have Frenudin’s blood in you after all and I should be glad for one of sídhe ancestry to serve me,’ Midhir said.
‘Boroden is my king and brother in arms. Never will I disobey him. Midhir, I beg you, don’t be hasty. We might come to some arrangement. The Seelie Court would settle this,’ Leon said.
‘There’s only one way to settle errant brownies.’
Before Midhir could elaborate there was a brisk ringing of the bell at the gate. The guards looked at Midhir questioningly.
‘It’s probably my wife returning from her ride. You’d better open it,’ Midhir told them dismissively.
As soon as they opened the gate, the guards yelled. Thuds and clangs rent the air as their armoured bodies hit the ground, pinned under a pile of flour sacks. One guard struggled up coughing, white as a phantom from the flour burst over him.
Boroden appeared in the gateway with a triumphant grin. Blackthorn alighted beside him. Boroden had heaved the sacks onto her back and she had flown up to poise them to fall as the gates opened.
‘Run, quick. Take the ponies,’ Boroden commanded, nodding in the direction of the astonished traders.
At a whinny from Blackthorn, the ponies gladly let the brownies free them. They galloped after her as she and Boroden took to the air. Astounded by the surging cavalcade, the guards did nothing.
Lifting his wand, Midhir sent a barrier of resistance to block off the entrance to the human world towards which the brownies fled. The air shimmered into a thousand rainbow coloured lightning bolts parrying back and forth. Someone had sent up a powerful aura to resist his. Someone within the fortress. Midhir was thwarted only a few minutes, but by then the brownies were safe.
‘Who did that?’ Midhir fumed at the speckle of fearful folk remaining in the courtyard. No one answered. Midhir glared at his guards. ‘Find them.’
Midhir stalked back to his palace. Who would dare to resist him? They were clearly in sympathy with the brownie clan. The answer was simple. He had suspicions already of the brownies having supporters here.
‘Send to all the villages and have the brownies there questioned, under force if necessary. Spare not one of them,’ he ordered his chief of guards.
Airen had no idea of the intentions of the troop of guards that swept into the courtyard, passing by him. Fortunately, he had the sense to shade his face with his hood. He was weak and panting, yet there was a gleam of triumph in his eyes. Lovingly he fingered Freya’s bracelet, moved that she had given him the grace to use its power. Contained within it, passed down from Frenudin to her daughters, was ancient magic. Its protective aura had shielded the fleeing brownies from Midhir.
Airen had missed Leon, and perhaps his chance of journeying with him to Lutraudros, yet this blow did not strike him as deeply as it might. They could not hide forever. Almost as if the bracelet had spoken to him he knew that the time had come to give it to Aira. She must know who she truly was.
He headed home, passing Shrike on his way. The boggart cast him an ugly sneer, but Airen thought little of it, being used to his ways. He would have been surprised, however, had he looked back and seen Shrike clomping up the steps to the palace door.
‘King Midhir, this creature wants to speak with you,’ the chief guard said, bowing.
Already out of sorts with brownies, a boggart was the last thing that Midhir wanted to see.
Shrike tugged his greasy hair in what he assumed was a gesture of respect. ‘Sire, I have information about the brownies.’
‘If I hear one word more about them I’ll rip out the tongue of he who utters it - with my nails,’ Midhir declared, turning on his heel dismissively.
‘But you’d want to hear this I reckon. You want to know who invited them brownies to settle here? Well, I know the culprit.’
‘Go on,’ Midhir said with little faith.
‘It’s the swordsmith Airen. I overheard him talking to one of the chieftains very friendly like; Leon he was called. It seems Airen married Leon’s sister and Leon was wondering if him and his daughter might come and settle with him.’
‘Daughter? You said that Leon has a niece?’
‘Aye. Aira’s what they call her. A marred, stuck-up wench if ever I saw one.’
Midhir barely listened. His lips curled into a slow smile. ‘Fúamnach, bring me my looking glass.’
Midhir’s wife did as he bid but watched jealously over his shoulder as he breathed an incantation, misting the glass. It cleared to show a sunny meadow. Skipping across it, bright and lovely as the flowers about her, was a golden-haired brownie lass.