The Ways of Winter
Book 2 of The Hounds of Annwn, Chapters 1-3
*I’m sorry I ran away, Mother. I want to come home now.*
Seething Magma raised her mantle in the dark underground cavity and interrupted her meal of crushed rock. At last, she thought, relief flooding her limbs. It had been almost a thousand years since she’d heard from her youngest child.
*Where have you been?* she scolded, then emended, *Never mind, just come home.*
*I can’t! He won’t let me go.* Granite Cloud’s wail roused her mother’s alarm. Nothing could hold an elemental.
*I’m coming to fetch you,* Seething Magma projected decisively. She shook herself and prepared for travel, pinpointing her daughter’s location from her thoughts.
*No, you can’t. He’ll get you, too.*
Seething Magma settled back down thoughtfully. *Maybe you better tell me all about it. I’m sure we can find a way.*
George kept Angharad company at her kitchen table as she prepared the crust for an apple pie. Almost a month of marriage hadn’t diminished her charm for him in the least, but he couldn’t spend the whole afternoon just watching her. Too bad.
It was the inactivity, he thought. The second of the early winter storms had ended this morning, after two days of snow. Hunting had been stopped since the first days of December. At least that allowed him to be more flexible in his domestic commuting schedule. His young junior huntsman Rhian had been handling hounds on Thursday mornings for hunting, and Sunday and Monday mornings for the hound walking, allowing him to come from Gwyn’s court into Greenhollow and spend time with his wife (I can’t believe it, my wife!) three nights a week. He was grateful Rhian was gaining confidence with handling the pack.
Now, with hunting stopped from the snow and hound walking restricted to the front grounds of the manor house, his hunt staff had conspired to give him a full week off. He’d just arrived yesterday, anticipating at least a week of delayed honeymoon. His own dogs, coonhound Hugo and Sergeant, the yellow feist, were settled near the kitchen woodstove, but he knew Angharad’s terriers Cabal and Ermengarde would roust them if it looked like the people were going to play in the snow.
Angharad broke the silence. “Did I tell you how well I liked your grandparents? I’m glad I had the chance to meet them.”
“What about your family? You’ve been promising to tell me more about them.”
“You’ll have to wait for a visit to Gwyn’s father in Britain. They’re all in the old world, around the court, even the children.”
George had a hard time getting used to the notion of her having several children, all of them older than him. At thirty-three, he was a well-grown human, but she was a fae, more than fifteen hundred years old, and had lived many lives by his lights. He had blood ties to the fae himself, but no one yet knew if he had their gift of longevity, if he would be more than a brief interval in her life. It was an unstated worry that brought a note of urgency into their relationship.
He still thought it a miracle that she wanted to be with him anyway, given their relative ages. She’d settled into a solitary life as an artist when he met her, a self-sufficient existence, but he seemed to have jolted her out of that. He didn’t quite understand why, lacking her perspective on extended life, but he was grateful and disinclined to question his good luck.
“Have you found a new apprentice yet? I know you asked your mentor Bleddyn about it,” he said.
“These things take time, often many years. I’ve just let it be known I was available if anyone was seeking.”
She’d been painting up a storm since they’d met, revitalized, and was offering to share that with someone, as masters did.
She filled the pie dish with sliced apples and sealed the upper crust in place. Having popped it into the oven, she washed her hands and walked over to join him at the kitchen table, patting him on the shoulder as she went by. He grabbed her with one arm around the hip and held her there, tight to his side, breathing in her scent and the overlay of apples, cinnamon, and dough. She melted against him and looked down at him suggestively.
The pounding on the door was very unwelcome, just then.
Angharad sighed and opened it, letting in Thomas Kethin, Gwyn’s head ranger. He stamped the snow off his boots on the doorstep and unwrapped the wool muffler from his dark and weathered face.
“I’m sorry to disturb you two, I am, but we have a situation and I need George’s help.”
She offered to take his coat, but he refused. “The latest batch of Rhys’s invitees has just arrived at the Travelers’ Way, and the inn is full up and can’t accommodate them. We’ve got to get them up to the manor.”
“I feel for you, in all this snow, but what can I do about it?” George said.
“They’re not exactly a cooperative group,” Thomas said, wryly. “We have fae masters of several crafts, each prouder than the next, and quite a few korrigans. They’re not getting along with each other, and the fae in particular aren’t inclined to recognize my authority. I don’t fit their old world ideas of a proper welcome.”
“But I’m just the huntsman,” George said.
“You can use Gwyn’s authority as part of the family, and I think that would do the trick.”
George was reluctant to leave his warm nest but he recognized that Thomas had a point. He pushed back his chair and stood up. “Sorry, sweetheart, but I think I must.
“Of course you should,” she said. “There’ll be other times.” Ignoring Thomas standing by, trying to look anywhere else, she gave him a hug and a long, long kiss.
“There. Something to remember me by.”
And if I can make my legs work again, I’ll just walk on out of here, George thought, dazed.
In a few moments he’d assembled what he needed for a couple of miles of riding through the snow. He spoke to Thomas as he gathered up his gloves. “Do they all have horses?”
“There are seven wagons, carrying equipment and a few passengers. The rest are mounted, even the korrigans. I think we might as well sweep up all the other folk from the inn while we’re at it, in case the snow gets deeper.”
George whistled up his dogs and plunged out into the dark afternoon, plowing through the path to the stable to saddle his horse.
George looked up at the dark sky with its threatening clouds. The snow may have stopped but more was clearly on the way.
The two of them had the street to themselves at the moment and were able to ride side-by-side down the shallower snow in the middle, where the villagers had organized a log drag, a pole pulled behind a pair of horses that swept the top layer of snow to the side. They’d been sending a team out for the village streets every few hours for the last several days, and already the difference between the dragged and packed path and the untouched snow was a few inches. The full depth was approaching eight inches. Householders had cleared their own paths but were having a hard time keeping up with the persistent snowfall.
George had seen heavy snow occasionally in Virginia near the Blue Ridge, but even here in this otherworld version of the landscape, this much snow this early was considered unusual.
He stopped briefly at the Horned Man inn on the corner by the bridge to speak with Huw Bongam, the innkeeper. He gave his reins to Thomas to hold and stamped the snow from his feet before going in.
The main room was packed and noisy. The more fastidious fae were off in a group along one side, but the noisiest part of the crowd were korrigans. George had never seen so many of the dwarf-like folk all in one place. He’d only met the smith and his family at Greenway Court and a few traders as they came through.
Not many of the fae were as tall as George, at six foot four, and none were as broad. Huw Bongam had no difficulty spotting him as he came in, and made his way through the crowd. “Go back out on the porch, huntsman, or we’ll never be able to hear ourselves.” He pulled a cloak around himself and both stepped outside, where Thomas was waiting with the horses.
“I’m on my way to help Thomas with a new group at the Travelers’ Way,” George said. “Thought we might bundle up some of your guests and bring them with us, the ones who’re headed for Edgewood.”
“Well, you’d be doing me a favor, and that’s no lie. I’ve got more than I can handle. I’m used to housing folks who are snowbound for a day or two, but this call of Rhys’s for skilled craftsmen at Edgewood has brought out all the ambitious folks from Gwyn’s domain, and a few from the old world, too. Do you know, I’ve even got lutins, looking to expand their opportunities?”
“Where are you putting them all?”
“It’ll be the hayloft soon, if you don’t take some of them with you.”
“Alright, I’ll go on and see what’s come in at the Travelers’ Way and get them ready to move out immediately, without stopping here. If you could sort out your ‘keepers’ from the ones that want to get one step closer to Edgewood, tell them I’ll be back in about an hour with Thomas to lead them to Greenway Court.”
“I’ll do that,” Huw replied.
Thomas spoke up. “Not all of the newly arrived people are prepared for this much early winter. Can you spare the loan of any blankets for the trip to the manor house?”
George added, “What about horses or wagons for the folks here? They’ll have trouble walking in the snow, even if we help break more trail.”
“I’ll sort out some transportation and wraps for the journey, as much as I can spare, if you can get it back to me as soon as you can,” Huw said.
“Much appreciated,” George said. “If you can provide your own drivers, we’ll house them and they can bring back the empty wagons with your gear, weather permitting, plus any villagers who might be feeling trapped at court.”
With a nod, Huw went back inside and George remounted.
He rode with Thomas past the crossroads with the stone bridge on the right and turned into the cul-de-sac on the far left that led to the Travelers’ Way. All the peace and quiet of the snowy streets fled as they heard the raised voices and clangor of the expedition, fresh from the more civilized old world of Gwyn’s origins.
George hung back for a moment as Thomas rejoined the party. He saw seven wagons with goods and people, now shivering in the cold. There were a few fae on foot, and a couple of korrigans, but most of the travelers had heeded the instructions to come on horseback or with transport, and even the korrigans were mostly mounted on sturdy ponies, though they didn’t all look like seasoned horsemen. To his dismay, he saw what must be wives and families for a few of the travelers, so there were several children to think of.
Thomas’s reappearance drew the loudest speaker like a lodestone draws iron.
“A fine welcome this is, no one from the court and a foot of snow. How are we supposed to proceed?” This was from a tall fae, on the older side of middle-aged.
He put himself in front of the other fae as if he had taken charge of them, and they seemed to permit it, though George thought he detected hidden smiles as he continued to make a fuss. “We require some shelter in this wilderness. This is not what we were led to expect.”
Thomas said, with great self-control, “My lord Cadugan, allow me to present George Talbot Traherne, the great-grandson of our prince Gwyn ap Nudd.” He bowed from the saddle, and beckoned George forward.
“At last,” Cadugan said, gratified. “His brother Edern ap Nudd summoned me as steward for the Edgewood lands, on behalf of his grandson Rhys. I’m eager to see that all of us get there as quickly as possible.”
“I am pleased to meet you, sir, and all of you here,” George said in his best political voice. “I apologize for our unseasonable weather, but we have yet to find a way to keep the snow from falling.” This mild quip broke some of the tension, and the fractious crowd started to relax now that someone had appeared to take charge of them, someone acceptable to their leader.
One of the korrigan elders, a bearded man in practical woolens over a blue silk waistcoat came up to join Cadugan. He bowed. “I’m Tiernoc, elected leader for the journey for my folk.” He offered his hand up to George.
George didn’t dismount because he wanted the height to help direct the crowd, so he bowed low over his saddle to shake hands with the korrigan—very low, since Tiernoc was less than five feet tall.
“Are the two of you the leaders of everyone here, for now?” George asked.
“That’s right,” Tiernoc said, and Cadugan nodded.
“How many are you, including everyone?”
“Twenty-two fae,” Cadugan said.
“And seventeen of my folk,” Tiernoc added.
“Alright, here’s the situation. We can’t put you up at the inn because it’s full with other snowbound travelers, and you’re too many to just try to house in Greenhollow’s homes. We’re going to take your group and a party from the inn which is also headed to Edgewood and bring all of you up to Gwyn at Greenway Court. From there you’ll be able to get to Edgewood via the Guests’ Way and a brief overland road to the Edgewood Way.”
“How far is Gwyn’s court?” Cadugan said. “We’re not prepared for this weather.”
“It’s two miles, and the snow is deep. We have more wagons and horses coming from the inn, and as many blankets as they can spare. We’ll organize trail-breakers in front. Everyone who can’t ride will need to be in wagons so that no one’s on foot.”
Cadugan looked unhappy at this. “Can’t we stop and warm up first?”
“I’m sorry, but the snow could restart at any time—look at the sky. Better to do one last push and be under sure shelter no matter what the weather brings next,” George said.
He walked his horse back to Thomas who was issuing instructions to the four rangers with him. “You were right,” he said privately, “like oil on troubled waters. Here you have two centuries of experience, and they wanted a member of the family instead.” He shook his head.
“I’m headed over to the inn to get that batch organized. If you’ll give me two of your men and keep two for yourself we can each arrange our groups into a trail-breaking order and then shuffle them together as they cross the bridge. What do you think?”
“That’ll work,” Thomas said. “Heavy horses in front to break trail, then light horses, wagons, and ponies at the rear. Don’t forget blankets for this group, I don’t like the looks of some of them in the wagons. And don’t delay, that snow won’t hold off forever.”
Before entering the inn, George set Thomas’s two men to sending on one of Huw Bongam’s wagons to the other group, then coordinating the wagons of the inn’s party. They’d line those up in the road and free up some space in the stable yard to maneuver the horses. George had a private word with one of the grooms to hold his horse tacked up but under shelter to spare him as much of the cold as possible.
He walked into the inn’s main room, bringing his dogs with him, and beckoned Huw over. “Do you think we could send some hot tea and maybe something stronger down to the Travelers’ Way? There are about forty people in the snow and some of them are shivering with the cold.”
“I’ve already taken that in hand. The wagon they’re getting carries fifteen blankets, three gallons of tea, and a nice hot toddy for any who wants it. Let me go see about the rest of the preparations in the stable yard.”
Many of the crowd had turned to watch him standing in the entrance. George knocked loudly on the door frame for silence and addressed them. “In one hour we’ll lead a party from here with a group from the Travelers’ Way up to Greenway Court. If you’re trying to go on to Edgewood, I strongly advise you to join us, since the snow could start again at any time. We can house you at the court until the weather allows you to continue your journey.”
“Be warned,” he continued, “The snow is deep and it’s about two miles. We’ll break trail for the vehicles as we go and there should be a place in the wagons for anyone who isn’t mounted, but I urge you to ride if you can to leave room for others. Can I see a show of hands for anyone who plans to join us?”
A rising hubbub filled the room at the news, though George didn’t doubt that Huw Bongam had already warned them this was coming. About a dozen fae raised their hands, and many more korrigans. Five lutins made their way through the crowd to the front, too, all dressed in red and a bit shorter even than the korrigans.
George called again for silence. “If you don’t have a mount and need a place in the wagons, come up to me now for a moment. I’d also like to see a leader for each group, someone who can keep track of its members before and during the ride so that we don’t leave anyone behind. Everyone else, start packing. And be quick about it.”
Two fae and a korrigan joined the lutins in front as most of the rest of the crowd dispersed to pack their belongings.
The elder fae spoke first. “I’m Meilyr. All of us are from elsewhere in Gwyn’s domains and came at his call. We have four in our party who are traveling to Edgewood as masters in their crafts. One of those is a colleague of Ceridwen. There are seven others who are seeking family long lost to them. I’m one of those.”
“Will you hold yourself responsible for their names and making sure of their whereabouts for our journey to the court?” George asked.
“Do any need wagons?”
“The craft masters brought equipment but we have our own wagons to haul it. All are mounted.”
“Thank you. Please assemble your wagons on the party already out front and take your instructions from the rangers there.”
The lutins came forward, led by one middle-aged lutine. She said, “I’m Rozenn. Some of us are looking for lost family, and others are seeking employment. I’ll be responsible for our names and well-being, but we’ll all need places in the wagons, with our goods.”
“Thanks, Mistress Rozenn. Please bring your people and your goods to me here. I’ll hold all the wagon loads in one place until we’re sure how many will be required.”
As she left, Huw Bongam returned. “How about it, huntsman? Do you know how many wagons you’ll need from here yet?”
“So far, it looks like there are five lutins and their gear who will need transport, but the rest are accounted for. So, just the one wagon. What’s the news from Thomas?”
“He thinks he only needs the one wagon I sent him for his group, so it’s not as bad as I feared. I’ll send out two drivers who can bring them back when the weather permits.” He sighed. “It makes me think of Isolda, your party of lutins needing a driver. I can’t get used to her being gone. She’d have loved the adventure.”
George frowned and gripped his shoulder. He turned back to the senior korrigan who was waiting patiently to speak.
“I’m Broch, and I’ll take charge of the fifteen of us from Gwyn’s domains. We, too, are craft masters and traders, hoping to re-open the route to Edgewood. We’ve brought our own wagons, and a few of us are riding as well. I’ve already sent our folks to assemble in the road with the others.”
One person was left waiting near the door, a fae who looked a bit younger than George. Unlike almost all the dark-haired fae George had met, he was redheaded and freckled.
“Not part of Meilyr’s group?” George said.
“No,” he said, smiling sardonically. “I’m just a lowly provincial musician—Cydifor. But I have hopes. No one said anything about Rhys Vachan having any musicians at Edgewood.”
“I’ve been there and I don’t remember any. But, you know, his cousin Rhodri is one, himself?”
Cydifor’s face fell, and George laughed.
“Don’t worry. Rhodri’s not there to stay for the long-term, and in the meantime he’s likely to prove a friend. I imagine he’s tired of playing by himself for his own amusement. Do you need transport?”
“I have a horse, but I’d appreciate space in a wagon for my gear, to ease the burden on her.”
“No problem,” George said. “Bring it here with the lutins’ bundles and then go mount up.”
Cydifor looked at George with unapologetic curiosity. “Did I hear Huw Bongam call you huntsman? Are you Gwyn’s new huntsman? I came through Danderi just after the great hunt and heard all about it.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce myself properly. I’m George Talbot Traherne, Gwyn ap Nudd’s great-grandson and, yes, his new huntsman.”
“I heard that someone died at the start,” Cydifor said, tentatively.
“That was Isolda of whom we were speaking. She had just started working as a driver. She was only eighteen and newly-betrothed, and she gave her life to save Gwyn’s foster-daughter from death at the hands of Cyledr Wyllt.”
“Who became the quarry of the great hunt.”
“Yes. He’s gone now.” There was satisfaction in George’s voice.
“Excuse me, but someone said you were human.”
“It’s true, more or less. I was brought here when the old huntsman was murdered. It’s a long story, for another time.”
Cydifor persisted. “They also said you hunted as the horned man.”
“As I said, a long story. We can speak at the manor house later.”
Cydifor took the dismissal in good humor and went off to gather his possessions.
George took a look around as he hurried off. He waved a hand at the locals who were left in the inn’s main room and went off to check on the assembly in the road.
George and his men finished loading the borrowed wagon and helping the smaller lutins scramble in. Their driver hastened out to join them, still munching the end of his meal and fastening his coat.
As he mounted up to ride the length of the group standing in front of the inn, George considered how long it would take to get the two groups together and then up two miles of snowy road before dark or the next storm. Probably about two hours, if nothing breaks down. He pulled out his pocket watch on its chain and confirmed that he had about that much daylight left. It was going to be close.
He spoke to Meilyr and Broch as he passed and got their assurance that everyone in their groups was accounted for, waved at Cydifor, and checked with Mistress Rozenn that all the lutins were set, with blankets piled around them, Cydifor’s instruments, and George’s dogs at their feet, to keep them out of the way.
“Alright,” he called to Thomas’s men. “Let’s move ’em out.”
The horses at the front of the line, including his own heavy Mosby, started out first, packing the snow down more tightly for the wagons that followed them. The korrigans, on their smaller horses and ponies, followed behind the heavier horses. The squeak of the dry snow combined with the rumble of the wagons and the creak of the horses’ saddles and harnesses to make it a noisy departure. Some of the drinkers at the inn waved from the doorway as they pulled out, the light behind them shining out onto the road under the darkened sky.
They didn’t have far to go. George held them short of the bridge and saw Thomas leading his group out of the gloom from the left. All the riders were as well-bundled as possible, and the people on the wagons had made good use of Huw Bongam’s blankets.
George walked Mosby over to confer with Thomas. “How do you want to do this?”
Thomas said, “Two of my men at the back, two along the sides moving up and down to keep them moving, and the two of us in front. I’ll have one of them do a count as they go by, so we know how many wagons and riders. Let me start out ahead to make sure there’s no special problem with the road. You come along on your horse at the head of the line to reassure them as we go.” He gave some last instructions to one of his men, then wheeled his horse around and crossed the bridge.
George turned back to the foot of the bridge, a grin tugging at one side of his mouth. He was going to be the master of a wagon train, if only for a couple of hours. Too bad he didn’t have a cattle herd to go with it and a good Stetson hat.
He faced the two lines of riders and wagons and raised his hand for attention. The groups quieted.
“Listen up. We have about two hours of daylight and it should be enough. We’re going to cross this bridge and go up the road on the far side of the stream, to the right. It’s a gentle slope, but uphill all the way. At the end is the lower gate of the manor house and one more brief climb up to where we’ll unload and get under shelter.
“Keep track of your neighbors. Don’t leave the line under any circumstances. If anything happens, a child falls overboard, anything, call for help from one of Thomas Kethin’s riders. Make sure your group leaders know where you are and, leaders, keep track of your people. It’s not that cold, but you don’t want to be outside overnight, wandering in the dark.
“We’re going to line up in sections. All riders on larger horses first, beginning with the group from the inn, then those from the way. Stick together with your group. The riders on shorter animals next, both groups. Then the wagons, starting with the lutins from the inn and then the rest of the inn party, and last the other wagons,” gesturing at the group from the Travelers’ Way. “Try to spread out on the road several abreast with your horses so the wagons behind you have better traction for their wheels. We’ll swap the leaders as we go so your horses can get a break.”
He paused. “Any questions?” No one replied.
Thomas trotted back over the bridge and joined him. “There are footprints, someone small, headed up the road since we came through earlier. Keep an eye out for him.”
Maëlys looked up at the sky and despaired of finishing another mile and more before darkness fell. She hadn’t expected the roads to be so deep in snow, dragging on her skirts and her cloak and making each step a misery.
She’d started south of Greenhollow at mid-morning. It was only five miles and she’d been sure she had plenty of time, but it was getting harder and harder to move her feet, and she was worried about being trapped on the road at nightfall with nowhere for shelter.
This is what comes of refusing to listen to Brittou, she thought, and waiting for the roads to clear. The farm manager for Iona’s stock-raising operation south of the village had been kind to her after her husband Luhedoc was given up for missing in that last sweep of lutins into Edgewood, and she was grateful. He’d recently proposed marriage, at this stage in their lives, but she couldn’t make him understand that she still felt bonded to her husband, even after eighteen years. Now that the holder of Edgewood had been unseated, she had to find out what had happened to him, to all the lutins who didn’t come back.
She could picture his crooked grin even now, the one he wore when a trick he’d set up succeeded. She wanted his biggest trick to have been survival, whatever was wrong with the place that had trapped him.
She heard a panting noise behind her and turned. Out of the mist, a great beast came lunging toward her through the snow. She lifted a foot to run, and then realized it was just a big hound, baying with delight that he’d found her and dancing around her in exuberance.
“Get back here,” George yelled at Hugo as the hound leapt from the wagon of lutins and dashed up the road into the gloom, but before he could reinforce it with a mental call, he felt what his hound had smelled, a presence up ahead. He pushed forward at a trot on Mosby, his big gray Percheron/Thoroughbred cross.
He’d expected someone on the road ahead from the footsteps crossing the bridge, but he was unprepared for a middle-aged lutine, wet and exhausted, pestered by a hound almost her own size. “Good boy, Hugo. Now leave her alone,” he said to his dog, who settled down with an air of pride in his find.
“Sorry about that, ma’am,” he said. “Headed to the manor house?”
She nodded wearily.
“You must have just beaten us to the bridge. Let me give you a ride on one of the wagons.”
With that, he reached down to her upraised hands and lifted her up, pack and all, to a seat sitting sideways behind him. She wasn’t big enough to reach around his waist, so he swept his left arm behind him awkwardly to hold her and turned his horse back through the rest of the horsemen to the first wagon. Coming alongside the stopped wagon of lutins, he carefully lowered her down again, not releasing his grip until he was sure she was standing firmly on the wagon bed.
“Thanks for holding onto my other dog,” he said to one of Rozenn’s party who had a firm grip on the smaller feist. Hugo,” he called, “Get over here.” He dismounted to lift the heavy hound into the wagon, brushing off as much of the snow on him as he could reach to spare the other passengers.
“I’m Gwyn’s huntsman, George Talbot Traherne,” he said to the rescued lutine, as he remounted.
“My name’s Maëlys. I’ve come from Iona and Brittou, seeking my husband in Edgewood.”
Rozenn put an arm around her and sat her down in the midst of the warm nest of blankets. “Many of us are looking for family, too,” she told her.
As he left to rejoin the head of the wagon train, he called down to her, “If you have any trouble finding housing when we get there, ask for me.” Behind him, the wagons started forward again.
A knock on his door warned Madog of the entry of a servant bearing mulled wine. The man bowed low, placed the tray on a sideboard, and left silently.
Madog took advantage of the interruption to lay his pen down and rise from the table, scattered with papers, that occupied the back half of his private study. Warming his hands with a cup of the wine, he walked over to the windows and looked to the east.
He never tired of this view. Naturally, nine hundred years ago, he had caused his court to be built defensively high, up the steep trail from the valley floor, right on the northern tip of the mountain keel that bisected the broad valley of the Horse River, the Dyffran Camarch. His special discovery later made this physical defense unnecessary, but he admired the prospect of the Blue Ridge to his east from this height so much that he determined to live with the inconvenience of bringing goods and people up the mountain to keep his court there. It represented his ambitions and reminded him, constantly, of Annwn, just over the deadly ridge he couldn’t cross directly.
After all, he was not the one discommoded by the location, not since his little find. He glanced at the corner of the room, where his way-adept senses easily detected the entrance of his small personal passage to the village at the bottom of the trail. That was a successful creation, he thought, not like some of the other earlier ones, while he was still learning what he could achieve.
Creiddylad would miss this snow, he thought. He was surprised at how she’d grown on him, now that they were forced together, her pride of birth humbled by the renunciation of her brothers Gwyn and Edern. When she finally saw his court for the first time and realized his strength, that he wasn’t just the obliging and cunning younger adviser she’d thought him, she was both grateful and gratified, inclined to meet him on equal standing, her age and birth against his new world power.
They restructured their alliance, sealed at last by consort status since they had lost the need to keep up pretensions. He’d have to be careful about that as always. He intended to raise no other way-adepts here, not even of his own blood. It was pesky the way that skill cropped up every now and then and had to be eliminated, even after all this time, but he prided himself on his thoroughness.
Creiddylad was no longer constrained by family squeamishness and was fully behind his plans to unseat her one-time brother Gwyn. Madog was glad, now, that he’d taken her with him after she’d backed him at the great hunt, even though that plan had failed.
Right now she was reveling in her new freedom. Though still under banishment by her grandfather Beli Mawr for her old role in creating the feud between Gwyn and her ex-husband Gwythyr ap Greidawl, she had perfected the art of traveling under a glamour and thought the risk of detection was low. Gwyn couldn’t touch her here and, if she was discreet, no one would notice her in Britain.
He frowned at that. His way to Britain, the one he’d found nine hundred years ago from the other end, was still a closely held secret. It wasn’t enough that he controlled its use through the way-tokens—he didn’t want its location, or even its existence, generally known. If Creiddylad’s glamour were detected, it would raise many questions about how she’d gotten there. She knew this, but he wasn’t confident it would make her more cautious. What will she do if she runs into some of her old friends? Will she try and spy on Gwythyr?
Well, he couldn’t do anything about her from here. He had his hands full with the new situation at Edgewood, working out what could be salvaged from the wreckage of his prior plan.
He took another sip of the heated wine, the spices tingling in his mouth.
Can my work go forward? Well, why not? Gwyn may know more about me now, I’ve lost that element of surprise, but what can he do about it? None of them can reach me. I control all the ways into the great valley of the river, and none of us can cross the ridge overland. With my barrier in place, they can’t even go around the long way.
The barrier I built at Edgewood for Creiddylad is still working, and the little beast grows stronger every day. It was stubborn this morning, but unable to resist his will. I wonder what else I can do with it? How big will it get?
What could stop me? That Rhodri there, Gwyn’s way-finder, he’s no threat, I think, and Gwyn had very limited powers with the ways himself.
The huntsman’s a puzzle. My spies insist he’s the one who shut down the Hidden Way after the great hunt, though they don’t talk much about it over there. It’s hard to believe, he’s just a human distantly descended from Gwyn. It was odd how Cernunnos rode him at the great hunt. That didn’t happen to the old huntsman Iolo. Maybe it only happens with human huntsmen, because they’re weaker than true fae.
There were very few humans in his domain, since none of his ways went to their world. The few he had were taken from Gwyn’s domain, for his research. He’d experimented with breeding here, and verified that the powers always declined with human blood in the mix, usually in the first generation. It satisfied him to have information he could count on, rather than just relying on the writings of scholars. Always better to know for sure, and the fields always needed more workers.
Still, the Hidden Way that he’d created so long ago was truly gone, and no other explanation seemed to be available.
I can’t destroy a way. Did the huntsman do that? Was it Cernunnos, riding him? Can I learn it from him or is he just some sort of freak?
It seemed to be common knowledge there that he sealed the way to Edgewood at the river meadow, the one I built for the ambush on Gwyn. It was a good idea, too, would have worked if the huntsman hadn’t disrupted it. No matter—I may have lost control from the Daear Llosg end at Greenway Court, but when this snow lets up, I’ll go back and close the other end, at least. It bothered him that it was still open, an untidy loose end from the older plan.
And either the huntsman or Rhodri destroyed the Court Way outside Edgewood’s manor. Lot of good that’ll do them. I just made a new one. That should keep them stirred up. He grinned. Still, we can’t have that going on.
The Trap Way should close the gate nicely, keep them all corralled up into a single pen at Edgewood. He’d refined the process since the capture of Rhys ab Edern and his consort Eiryth and their retainers twelve years ago. That had been riskier, he’d had to bring the little beast with him all the way to Britain, and it turned out he couldn’t control things well enough to keep his captives alive, though Gwythyr made no complaints.
This time, he’d try for Rhys’s son, the one he’d missed twelve years ago, and keep him alive, if he could. He’d launched the first step this morning, despite the beast’s odd resistance. Let’s see how they like that. Clean up a loose end and take a hostage to manipulate Gwyn. Scilti would no doubt appreciate someone new to play with.
No mistakes this time.
“I think there’ll be at least forty in this party that Thomas Kethin went to fetch,” Gwyn said to Ifor, as they stood outside the main stables at Greenway Court.
“Where will we put them all?” his steward asked. “The stables are mostly full up, and the barracks are getting crowded.”
“We’ll take the warehouses nearest the balineum and turn them into impromptu barracks. That way they can use the baths across the lane. Anyone who finds that beneath his dignity for a night or two can look for individual hospitality at dinner.”
“That would work, especially if we stand the wagons they’ll be bringing right next to the buildings, to minimize the work of loading or unloading.”
“Better leave them loaded if we can, and tie down covers over them in case of more snow,” Gwyn advised.
“Very well, my lord, so much for the people. But what about the horses?”
“The stables are large, if overfull. We’ll tie them in the aisles for now, it’ll have to do.”
A guard appeared on foot at the gate in the south curtain wall, breathing hard from a run up the cleared but uphill path. Ifor waved an arm to catch his attention and called him over.
“What news?” Ifor said.
“Thomas Kethin just rode ahead to meet us at the gate, sir.” The guard paused to take a breath. “He asked me to let you know that he and the huntsman are bringing in two groups at once, one from the Traveler’s Way and one from the inn. I’m to tell you that there are altogether thirty-four fae, thirty-two korrigans, and six lutins, with fourteen wagons, two of which belong to Huw Bongam, and he sent two drivers for them, too. Oh, and there are families and children included.”
Ifor did a quick estimate. “That’s got to be at least eighty or ninety horses, my lord. We’ll need all the stable hands out just to keep track of them for a day or two.”
Gwyn said, “Off you go, then. You organize the reception as they come in. Set someone to find Idris for me, and send me our people and the leaders of the travelers’ parties. We’ll set up food and drink in the great hall. And don’t forget those covers for the wagons.”
George stamped into the entry hall at the back of the manor through the double doors, shedding the snow from his boots. He found Rhian patting herself to make sure everything was in place. He assumed she’d just changed out of kennel clothes into something better suited to Gwyn’s foster-daughter.
She turned as the rear double-doors thumped open. “Cousin,” she said, “You’re not supposed to be here. Where’s Angharad?”
“Tell me about it,” he said, wryly. “Not easy to get a honeymoon going.”
“What’s this group like?”
“A mixed bag of all sorts. I’ll stick around to help with introductions.”
She flashed him a look of gratitude. At fourteen, she was young to stand there alone as hostess on her foster-father’s behalf and was glad of the support.
George took a moment to park his dogs in front of the fire in the hunting room that opened off the back entrance. They’d wait for him there, warm and out of the way.
The first travelers began to trickle in. Rhian took the lead in greeting them, and George ferried them to the comfort rooms on the side of the entry hall or to the great hall beyond, with its crackling fire and platters of food, depending on their most urgent needs. The three-story cavernous hall was relatively warm with its constant fire, the raised dais at the north end making it clear where the family took its meals.
When Huw Bongam’s two drivers came in, he pulled them aside.
“Do you want to try and return tonight, or wait for morning?”
One looked at the other. “If you can put us up, I think we’d rather do it in full daylight, huntsman.”
“You could get trapped here, if the snow returns,” he warned them, but they shrugged.
“Alright, then, but better collect Huw’s blankets now, before stopping for the day,” George said.
A pile of personal belongings had begun to accumulate in one corner of the great hall, whatever had been carried with them on horseback for those who rode.
The noise of more than sixty people relaxing and eating filled the lobby as well, conversations rising as everyone warmed up. The sound of children, even crying, was more welcome than silent, shivering faces, George thought.
He walked into the great hall with Huw’s drivers and raised a hand for attention. “If you borrowed some of the blankets from the inn, please return them to these men here. If you left them in the wagons, tell them so that they can fetch them in the morning.” Privately he said to the drivers, “If you come up short, let me know.”
“Group leaders, please come with me,” he continued, operating under Ifor’s instructions. “Rhian, you, too,” he said. He walked through the crowd and singled out Maëlys and Cydifor, traveling without leaders, and brought them along with him, ushering the whole group into Gwyn’s council room through the doorway on the other side of the raised dais.
Gwyn glanced up from his conversation with his steward Ifor as George brought in the leaders. Idris and Thomas Kethin were already seated around the long table in his council chamber, having delegated most of the tasks of seeing to the travelers to their subordinates. A fire warmed the room behind him, near his desk. Ceridwen walked about the large room while waiting and returned to the table as George came in.
His foster-daughter Rhian slipped in behind George’s group to take her seat next to Ceridwen. She’s still not certain I won’t revoke the privilege, Gwyn noted with amusement, after I let her start attending these sessions a few weeks ago. George remained standing with his people, waiting for everyone’s notice, and Gwyn took advantage of the moment’s delay to look them over. Three fae, two korrigans, and two lutines. That older fae must be Cadugan, the steward his brother Edern sent for. I hope he’s more useful than he seems, Gwyn thought, as the fae stood there impatiently waiting for attention.
He nodded at George to proceed.
“My lord Gwyn, let me present a few of your guests. This is Cadugan, come at Edern’s invitation to help Rhys at Edgewood.” The fae executed a credible court bow and straightened up stiffly. “He leads a party of some twenty-two fae from Britain.”
“Next to him is Meilyr, leading eleven from within your domain.” Meilyr made a respectful bow, but without the old world flourishes.
“I’ve included Cyledr, from your domains, who is traveling by himself, a musician.” Cyledr, much abashed in this company, managed a jerky dip of his head.
George moved on to the korrigans. “May I present also Tiernoc, leading seventeen of his folk from Britain, and Broch, with fifteen from your own domain.” Both executed similar formal bows, sweeping their hats off at the same time.
“Finally, this is Mistress Rozenn with a group of five, and Maëlys whom we picked up on the road, all from Annwn.” The two women curtsied.
George turned to them all and said, “This is my lord Gwyn ap Nudd, Prince of Annwn, whose guests you are. You’ve met Thomas Kethin, his head ranger, and Rhian, his foster-daughter. Here also are Idris, his marshal, Ifor Moel, his steward, and my lady Ceridwen, his scholar and healer.
Gwyn stood. “Welcome to all of you and thank you for coming. Please find seats. I’m sure you’re weary from your travels, and I’ll try not to keep you long.”
He reseated himself and waited for them all to settle.
“Please be assured that we’ll be glad to house and feed you all until you can move on to Edgewood. You won’t be going any further this evening, and the weather controls what will happen next, but the remainder of your journey should be easier.”
He pointed to the southeast. “Our Guests’ Way entrance is just outside the manor gates you passed through. It will take you to our Eastern Shore estate, and within a couple of miles of easy ground with little snow, you will find the entrance to the Edgewood Way, which exits right at the court. There will be snow at Edgewood, as here—it’s about fifty miles due north of us—but I understand the ground around the buildings has been cleared.”
Thomas Kethin added, “Those of you who were on borrowed wagons, we’ll be returning those wagons tomorrow but we’ll supply you with substitutes.”
Cadugan spoke up impatiently. “Can’t we start sooner? I’m eager to begin work after all these delays.”
Gwyn raised an eyebrow, but Cadugan stood his ground. “Let me suggest that you use this time to meet with your counterparts here and start to forge those alliances you’ll need to be effective.” Cadugan reluctantly nodded.
“Please let me explain to you what you’ll be joining,” Gwyn said. He leaned back to begin the familiar tale he’d told to two previous bands of travelers.
“Soon after I removed Annwn to the new world, about 1500 years ago, I granted my exiled sister Creiddylad an estate of her own, to spare her living forever at our father’s court.” The guests nodded their heads; most had heard the tale before.
“Edgewood had only one way, and I controlled the tokens, of course, so it was easy to keep her confined. She, in retaliation, prevented her own people from using the way, too, and so they were shut off from the rest of my domain. From time to time, she allowed settlers to enter through the way, but no one has returned for a very long time.” Everyone listened attentively.
“Overland travel was always possible, of course, but we’ve met no settlers from Edgewood outside those lands, and none of the people we’ve sent there to investigate in the last several hundred years has come back.
“At this most recent Nos Galan Gaeaf, at the end of the year, we held the great hunt with my kinsman and huntsman,” he pointed his chin at George. “For good and sufficient reason, my brother Edern and I renounced our sister afterward and banished her from my domain. Therefore, Edgewood has been free of her for just five weeks after all this time and, as you’ve heard, I’ve appointed my foster-son Rhys, my brother’s grandson, to hold it and began to repair the damage she caused.
“Before you proceed, you must now hear that we have a newly unveiled enemy, Madog, a way-adept. He holds lands to the west of the mountains and for hundreds of years he has influenced Creiddylad and her doings at Edgewood. We believe she’s with him now. He wishes me and mine no good and he may try to do harm here or at Edgewood—be warned.”
He cleared his throat. “So much for the past. Let me tell you what we found when we reopened the closed way to Edgewood.” He gestured to his marshal Idris to continue the tale.
“I’ll just give you a summary since we’re discovering more each day. To begin with, we can find no trace of the lutins or korrigans that we know were there at one time, some as recently as just a few years ago.” This brought a gasp from several at the table. “Let me be clear, we don’t know if they’re dead, hiding, or captive, or even if they’ve somehow left the territory. In the case of the lutins, there’s reason to think they’re in hiding—there are reports of unexplained activities that remind us of the tricks they can play on humans.” Gwyn saw Rozenn smile faintly at that.
“The fae that are there are… changed in some way. Craft masters have diminished and the levels of skill in all areas have deteriorated. Trade is minimal. The farmers on the outskirts of the land are worse, and there is some sort of barrier surrounding the lands. We don’t understand it, but it’s reminiscent of the barrier that marks the ridge line of the Blue Ridge mountain to our west. If you don’t live locally, you may not understand the comparison; fae and others can’t cross that line without damage or death.” Gwyn noted Cadugan rolling his eyes, but Meilyr nodded thoughtfully. “The barrier at Edgewood wasn’t there when the lands were first given to Creiddylad, and we don’t know when it appeared or how it was made, but it may explain why there have been no known overland crossings in either direction.”
Gwyn said, “Let me tell you what’s been done in the last five weeks. My brother Edern is serving as Rhys’s chancellor. I’ve provided a marshal, Lleision, and a weapons-master, Morial, from my own staff. I’ve also placed my kinsman Rhodri, a way-adept, on Rhys’s council.
“At the urging of both Edern and me, Rhys has sent out an invitation to settlers and especially craft-masters to help restart the community. Those of you who will be settling in Edgewood will be holding Rhys as your lord. Some of you are planning only a temporary stay, and that’s acceptable—no one will be required to stay if they wish to leave. That includes the current inhabitants, once we sort out the situation.
“We’ve also set up a courier service. Every afternoon, a rider bearing messages arrives at both Edgewood and here, one from each direction.” At least, so far. Today’s messenger from Rhys was hours late.
He paused to refocus his attention. “Would you please, each of you, tell us something about who you’re bringing to Edgewood?”
To no one’s surprise, Cadugan was the first to step forward. He said, “As you know, Edern has asked me to serve as steward. I would like to meet with you, Ifor, afterward,” bowing to him, “to begin sorting out how the staff I brought with me should be arranged to cause the least disruption.” Ifor nodded.
“I understand that there are three main villages in Edgewood, so I’ve recruited whatever craft-masters were willing to come without worrying too much about possible duplication.” Gwyn thought that unusually practical for someone of his precise temperament. Perhaps he would prove suitable after all, ballast to Rhys’s youth and inexperience. Edern was usually right about the staff he recommended.
“Some of our people brought their families, and perhaps they didn’t understand the degree of danger involved. On the other hand, all are eager for an opportunity to prove themselves at a new court. Those vacancies are not easy to find, in the old world.”
He turned to Ceridwen. “My lady, one of my party is for you, Eluned. I’ll have her seek you out afterward.”
Meilyr said, “Most of my group met for the first time at the inn. We’ve come from all over your domain, my lord,” nodding to Gwyn, “some as craft-masters, same as Cadugan’s, and several seeking kin lost to us these many hundreds of years. I, myself, am looking for one of my sons. I think more will continue to come in for a while, as the word spreads.”
Tiernoc leaned over the table to face Gwyn. “Crafts we want, of course—smithies and iron work—but trade especially. Some of us have never traded in the new world at all, shame to them, and others just want a chance to see what opportunities are here. A few of us are miners in the old way, seeking to join our kinsmen, prospecting.
Broch nodded along and spoke to him, “We welcome you, friend. Let’s meet afterward and discuss mutual ventures here.” Turning to Gwyn, “And a few of us seek family and friends, too. There are many wanting to know what’s happened to them.”
Rozenn in her turn said, shyly, “Most of us are looking for our families, but some also want new opportunities. Many more wait at home to hear what we find and may come themselves, depending.”
Gwyn glanced enquiringly at Maëlys, seated next to Rozenn. She said, quietly, “I’m searching for my husband, my lord, gone eighteen years. I’m from down the road, at Iona’s place.”
The last, Cydifor, gathered his nerve. “I’m from Tredin, my lord. Thought I’d see if your foster-son could use a musician.”
Gwyn hid his smile. Tredin had perhaps ten families—large families, with a reputation for seeding their children widely all over his domain as soon as they could travel. Small wonder this one was motivated to try his chances elsewhere.
He rose to end the meeting. “We’ll send you out tomorrow mid-day, weather permitting.”
The travelers pushed back from the table and left, all except Cadugan whom Gwyn asked to stay behind. It was time to go into more detailed discussions about the situation, and Cadugan would need any information he could get to do his job for Rhys.
As things settled down, Gwyn leaned over to speak with George.
“I’m sorry to see you pulled away from Angharad again. I know how newlyweds like their privacy.”
We should have done it in my world and eloped to Maui, George thought, but he contented himself with saying, “It couldn’t be helped, sir, we understand. There were just too many people, and they needed reassurance.”
Gwyn looked around the table. “I wanted to take this opportunity to bring us up to date together and to let Cadugan catch up. Idris, Ceridwen, please give us a summary of where we are right now.”
Idris looked at Ceridwen and she gestured to him to start first, Rhian attentive by her side.
“We’ve got a working government established, with Edern as chancellor, Lleision as marshal, and Rhodri as an expert on the ways. The biggest concern is defense, with Madog still unaccounted for, and Morial has started recruiting and training. The fae furthest from the boundaries of the territory are most unaffected and are beginning to revive again, a little, now that they see hope and new life.”
“That’s the good news,” he said. “On the other hand, we have hospitals that barely function, the schools are just… gone, and all the buildings and fields show the despair of centuries clearly upon them. We need basic crafts-masters, as Rhys has been recruiting, and education for such children as remain, and maybe for some adults, too.”
George asked, “What about the fae with families?”
“A few have asked about their families elsewhere, which we take as a good sign, but we need a policy about opening the way altogether, not just letting the emigrants in but the residents out, and when. With a caution—what would happen if they all decide to leave, small blame to them?”
Rhian said, “What about the lutins? Has anyone found them?”
“Your brother Rhys has taken them as his special responsibility, with the korrigans, but there’s no sign yet other than those I alluded to earlier: horses groomed in the stalls, lost cows restored, and so forth. The old tasks.”
Ifor told Cadugan, “One other piece of good news—the crops did well at Edgewood and no one will suffer for a hard winter, if we can reach everyone. And we’ve sufficient here to support the visitors as well as ourselves, if we must.”
Ceridwen filled in her part. “As Idris says, the schools have vanished, and most of the healers, too. I’m coming along on this next trip to re-establish everything again, and Eluned will be my delegate after I return.”
Gwyn asked George. “Can you explain for Cadugan where we are with the ways at Edgewood?” He turned to Cadugan to elaborate, “My great-grandson has demonstrated some interesting way-adept capabilities since his arrival, but there hasn’t been enough time to train him properly.”
George leaned forward. “The Edgewood Way seems to be operating normally since Rhodri opened it and remade the way tokens. On my two visits he and I rode as much of the estate as we could reach in a short time looking for any other ways, especially the other end of the way that reaches to Daear Llosg, the Archer’s Way, I think they’re calling it now. That’s still open but sealed at our end, and we assumed the other end would be open as well, since Madog didn’t get to use it as an escape when he fled after the great hunt. We hope that it communicates with Edgewood.
“You may not have heard that we did find one small way not far from the house, one that hadn’t been there when Edgewood was built. Rhodri and I decided to shut it down for greater security, Rhys and Edern concurring, and I collapsed it, like Madog’s Hidden Way outside our palisade after the great hunt. We haven’t found any other ways.” Not yet anyway, he thought.
He caught Cadugan’s skeptical glance. It wasn’t supposed to be possible to completely eliminate a way.
“I felt a hint of something down at the southern end on my last visit, but we didn’t get that far on horseback and I can’t say for sure whether or not it’s the end of the Archer’s Way at the river meadow. I’d like to know; another access direct from here would be useful, even if it’s some distance overland at the Edgewood end.”
He sat back in his chair and summarized for Cadugan’s benefit. “That’s my highest priority task, on my next visit, to track down what I thought I felt at the south end of the estate. It’s at least fifteen miles from Edgewood’s manor, though, so it may have to wait until there’s less snow on the ground.”
Ceridwen broke in. “You haven’t heard. Rhodri sent word yesterday that the way you destroyed has been replaced recently, however impossible that may seem. He says it’s definitely a different way, a bit larger and not in exactly the same place. It’s owned so he can’t claim it. They have it under guard.”
“Is it Madog?” George said, surprised. “Can he just make ways at will? I thought that couldn’t be done.”
“It does seem that our knowledge is… insufficient,” Gwyn said.
George said, “I still don’t understand why no one ever left overland to report on the doings at Edgewood.”
Ceridwen said, “The fae who live closest to the barrier, whatever it is, are also the furthest from the manor, and Rhys has had his hands full, pulled in many directions. They just haven’t investigated very far into it, yet.”
Idris said to Cadugan, “Rhys and Lleision have been concentrating on defense, and this new way is a direct threat. I’ve been getting reports daily from Edern’s couriers, what George here has been calling the Pony Express.”
He turned to face Gwyn, “Do you have today’s reports, my lord? In the confusion of the travelers’ arrival, I haven’t seen them yet.”
Gwyn said quietly. “The messenger hasn’t come.”
Into the shocked silence, Rhian said, tentatively, “Maybe he’s been delayed by the snow?”
Gwyn shook his head doubtfully.
A knock sounded on the door, and one of Idris’s men stuck his head in. “It’s snowing again, my lord.”
Gwyn pushed back from the table. “It’s getting on and you have tasks to occupy you. I’ll see you all at dinner.”
Dismissed, Cadugan and Gwyn’s council members took their leave, Cadugan going over details with Ifor and Ceridwen as they clustered near the door.
George held Ifor back for a moment. “If there’s any problem housing Cydifor or Maëlys, assign them to me. They’re each traveling alone and are probably feeling a bit lost, and I told Maëlys I’d watch out for her.”
He let Ifor go then but lingered on to speak with Gwyn.
“As long as I’m here anyway, sir, I should go with them,” waving at the travelers in the great hall outside, “and see if I can help Rhodri with this new way.”
“I was going to recommend that,” Gwyn said.
“I have a question that’s been bothering me about the ways, though. Perhaps you know the answer? I still don’t understand what’s normal, what to expect. I haven’t been through very many of them yet.”
“What I wanted to know was, why do most of the ways have a passage, a little distance to traverse between one end and the other?”
“They all do,” Gwyn said, puzzled.
“Well, no, they don’t, not all of them. The one that you opened at the bridge for Nos Galan Gaeaf, for the great hunt, and the ones that Cernunnos opened during the hunt itself—those were all immediate, without passages.”
“Yes, you’re right. Those are exceptions.”
“The one that brought me here, what Rhodri now calls the Huntsman’s Way, has no passage, either.”
“I didn’t know that,” Gwyn said slowly. “Perhaps Cernunnos has his own methods and the few scholars who write about the ways haven’t attended the great hunt and seen them. It seems there’s a lot we’ve been taking for granted about how the ways work.”
He looked hard at George. “Given your presumed relationship, did Cernunnos open the Huntsman’s Way, or did you?”
George said, “I have no idea how to open a way. I didn’t know they existed, before I came here.”
But since then you’ve destroyed two, enlarged one, and sealed one, he thought to himself. It’s no surprise that Gwyn asks the question.
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