Lord of the Wolves Chapter Twenty-Three

February 17th, 2018  |  Published in Haventon Chronicles

Start | LoTW Chapter Twenty-Two | Index | LoTW Chapter Twenty Four

He was inside the sword David realised almost immediately. Mentally anyway. Though he was surprised that the inside of the sword appeared to be a fairytale castle.

“It is a little strange,” the woman sat on the stairs of the dais said. “But it’s coming from your mind not mine so you’ll have to figure that one out yourself.” She rose to her feet and he saw that she was dressed in armour of the same glowing milky ice as the sword and that she strongly resembled Sabren. He had a feeling that he knew who she was.

“You’re Elsed aren’t you?”

“I am,” she agreed. “Or this form is a shadow of her anyway. More accurately I’m the Winter Blade’s imprint of it’s previous holder summoned forth to communicate with you.”

“And you’re here to compel me to kill the Winter King?”

“Elsed did lay a doom to that end on the Winter Blade, and she did place it at Maddan’s request, but no, we’re not at that point yet. I’m here because I wanted to see my new bearer and be sure they were up to the task.” She walked around him. “The Winter Warrior is a hard task to bear especially at the moment. Are you up to it?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “But I’ll do my best. I promise you that.”

“Good answer,” Elsed said. He found that even knowing she was a projection of the sword he couldn’t not think of her as Elsed. “If you had said yes I would have known that you were lying.”

“Is there really no way to resolve this without killing the Winter King?” David asked. “He doesn’t sound like he deserves to die.”

Elsed gave a sad smile. “He doesn’t. But I can sense the Winter Crown and it tells me that he is wounded beyond healing, caught between life and death and his mother is hollowing the potential summer monarch every few years to keep him in that state. She’s killed hundreds since this started and it can end only with his death. Even if you managed to kill Gwen without the regular infusions of spirit energy he’ll die soon and far more horribly.”

David closed his eyes. “I see.”

“You have a good heart, young man,” Elsed said. “Winter is cold and hard but that just means can bring out the best in people.”

“And the worst,” he said.

“True,” she said. “But I don’t think you need to worry about that happening to you.”

“Can I ask something?”

She tilted her head at him. “You want to know what a doom feels like? It depends… if it’s constraining your free will it can feel like a curse making you act in ways you don’t wish and punishing you when you try not to. If it’s working in harmony with it then it feels quite different rewarding you for doing what you would do anyway.”

“And it cannot be refused?” he asked, thinking of how Maelin had apparently been doomed to be unable to talk about what Gwen had done.”

“That was a blood curse not a doom,” Elsed said. “The summer warrrior is his mother and used the magical link between them to lay the curse. Dooms can be refused but not without consequence. For example if you want to accept your role and wield me then you have to accept the doom that comes with me. Since you are planning to save the potential summer queen anyway it should not be a problem.”

“And that is the only one?” he asked. “I’d like to know exactly what I’m taking on.”

“Wise of you,” she said. “That is the only one. The rest of it is innate to the role and just like any task you can ignore it if you wish. I wouldn’t accept you if I thought you would though. Will you take me up?”

David took a breath and then nodded. “I may live to regret this,” he said. “But I will.”

“Thank you.” She melted into the form of a fine blade, somewhat different from the one he had taken up in the real world, and hovered in front of him. He reached out, grasped the hilt and was catapulted back into the real world.

* * *

He found himself lying on the floor with the sword in his hand. Philip, Susan and a tall woman he didn’t know were kneeling around him. She was extrordinarily beautiful with golden hair entwined with roses, pointed ears and elfin features. Even so she looked enough like his mother that even though she looked younger he had an inkling that she was his grandmother.

“Buh!” He started to sit up but the woman stopped him with a gentle hand.

“Best give it a moment,” she said. “The winter blade is still pouring power into you.”

“Mother arrived while you were unconscious,” Susan said, confirming his suspicion. “What happened?”

“He was having a conversation with the Winter Blade, I imagine,” her mother. “Some of the hallows can be picky about accepting a potential and the Winter Blade is one of them.”

“I wish the Day Blade was as picky, Lady Lillian,” Kate muttered.

Lillian laughed, but not unkindly. “I’ve heard about that. You were very unlucky getting such a monster.”

“Lady Lillian?” David asked.

“It seems Lillian was holding out on us,” Philip said. “We knew she was part of the rebel court, but she failed to mention that she was the Summer Herald and its effective leader.”

Lillian sighed. “If I’d told you it would have made you a target. This situation is a mess. Gwen made it such a mess. Sometimes I just want to cry about it. But for the first time in a long time I have hope. If we can kill Maddan, rescue the vampire girl and get to the summer crown we can destroy Gwen’s power base once and for all.” She glared at Maelin. “Saving the girl is paramount.”

“How many times have we been over this, Bron,” he snapped. “I’ve tried. I tried for centuries and never found a way. We might save her if we kill Maddan because that will stop the hollowing happening but Gwen will probably kill her out of spite and we have no way of getting to the summer crown, she’s paired mutually exclusive wards on it.”

“Don’t call me Bron!” She flared at him. “I haven’t gone by Bronwen for centuries and won’t again until the Summer Throne is filled.” She sighed. “And no paired ward is unassailable. You can’t make them fully mutually exclusive, so we just need someone who can pass both.”

“She found a pairing that makes it practically impossible without being strictly impossible,” he said. “She paired a ward against the living with a ward only allowing a potential Summer Monarch to pass. Ghosts can’t become mistwalkers… why are you laughing?”

“Maelin, the girl is a vampire,” Sabren said.

“Vampires aren’t dead,” he said.

“No, but wards against the living don’t block us,” she said. “Nor do wards against the dead for that matter. We fall between two stalls as it were.”

“Can a vampire actually become a mistwalker monarch?” David asked.

“They would be a hybrid, a bit like Sabren, but with a Summer affinity,” Morna said. “There’s never been a hybrid monarch in any court that I know of, but it’s possible and other court roles have been held by hybrids before.”

“The new Earth queen is a reynadine-oread hybrid,” Lillian said. “She was just a reynadine with a submerged mistwalker heritage she didn’t even know she had until she grabbed the Earth crown to return to the court after the Earth King was killed in a fight against a hollower cabal. It triggered her Mistwalker heritage and accepted her without asking. I was in Greece trying to get her backing for the rebel court.”

“So it will be up to the crown?” David asked.

“Yes, but as long as we can get her in there the worst case scenario is that she’ll be able to bring it out for us to find someone it will accept,” Lillian said. “But I suspect it will accept her.”

“We have to try,” Maelin said. “It would be a great relief to have this over with… but I’ve never managed to get into the Winter Palace and not for want of trying. We don’t have time for a siege. In theory David can get in there but Gwen will have guards who are loyal to her rather than Maddan posted against that.”

“I can get you in there,” someone said from the door. From where he was lying David couldn’t see the speaker but her voice was familiar.

“Cheryl!” Tyler said. “What are you doing here.” Of course, it was the woman who had wished him good luck even as she was refusing to help him. Had that really only been a couple of days ago?

“King Maddan sensed that David had taken up the Winter Blade,” she said. “He ordered me to come and help you as the only Lorekeeper loyal to him rather than his mother.”

“I see,” Liam said. “And how do we know Gwen didn’t send you.”

“You don’t,” she said. “But I’m willing to accept a doom to help you if that would help.”

“It would help,” Lillian said. “But I won’t say it proves anything. It wouldn’t be the first time that Gwen has used threats towards someone’s loved ones to make them accept a doom she knows they’ll have to break. And she’ll suspect we’ll go after Maddan now so she might well try something like that.”

In the pause that followed that David finally managed to sit up and look over at Cheryl, who was shuddering.

“I can believe that she would do that,” Cheryl said. “She cares for nothing except herself and Maddan and him only in a selfish way. But I swear it is not the case this time, though I know there is no way you can know I’m speaking the truth so I understand if you don’t wish to accept my help.”

Lillian sighed. “And if we don’t accept your help and Gwen is holding your kin she’ll kill them for your failure.” She tutted to herself. “And we do need your help to get into the palace. There’s no doubt about that.” She looked at the others. “My inclination is to take her up on her offer but watch her like a hawk.”

“I agree,” Kate said. “But I think we’ll take that doom as well. Just as an added layer of security.”

“Of course,” Cheryl said. “Name your terms, Day Queen.”

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