Chapter Seven - The Grotto
Somewhere to the west of them, Mederei, Hugh and Ramses flew towards a storm. What was about those three? Before Mederei joined the guild officially six months previous, had Luna gone with either Hugh or Ramses on missions. Mederei had, when the time called for it, but usually she would help Luna.
However, when Mederei did go with Hugh and Ramses - those two always worked together - there always seemed to be some sort of adventure. Shortly after Ramses and his sister joined the guild, Mederei and Caradoc had come for a visit. It was Luna's first time ever meeting one of the Gwion males up close. She had posters of some of the Gwion, mainly Mederei's brother, Tewdr and another cousin or two because there were the most common members of the family who were out and about.
Then there was Caradoc. He was inhumanly handsome, and really nice. He wasn't rowdy like Hugh could be, and he wasn't moody like Ramses sometimes was. Nope, Caradoc was a breath of fresh air, a force to be reckoned with, certainly, but he was .... "Brilliant."
"Come again?" Caradoc asked. "You say something?"
"No. Just looking at the scenery." Mainly Caradoc, but she shouldn't tell him that - the man had an ego, and really, the view was brilliant. They stood at the edge of the cliffs north of the city, where the ocean was especially wild. The sky was blue as Brys' eyes on a poster, and the waves lapped against the barren beach below.
It was the perfect location for a grotto.
Caradoc pointed to a distant cave. "I think that must be ..."
Suddenly, the earth gave way. Caradoc, who was closer to the edge, dropped first, but he seemingly climbed back to grab Luna, yanking her close into his body then angling them around so he would land first.
She couldn't think, but only the thought of slowing down, and prayers to the Uncreated One, helped. Would the Gwion clothing Caradoc wore save him?
Caradoc's breath rushed from him; Luna shook from the impact, and opened her mouth to breath, but nothing came or went. Coughing, she started to breath.
Below her, Caradoc coughed as well. "They should put warning up there about that first step," he muttered. "Are you all right?"
"Good. Can you stand yet? Otherwise, I don't mind having you remain here for a bit until you're settled."
Luna clamored to her feet.
Caradoc sighed as he sat upright then climbed to his feet. "Doesn't look like many people come here," Caradoc observed at the base of the cliffs. He absentmindedly dusted his clothes off as he stared up at the hole where the grotto was. Turning back to look where they had been standing a moment ago, he surmised, "Must be the sudden drop down."
Luna glared at him and slowly patted her skirt more to make certain her body was uninjured than to clean the skirt. The skirt was a Mederei original, and Luna had set a spell on it to make it impervious to dust - a good thing for someone who despised house cleaning. "That might be a problem. Good thing I was here, Caradoc, or you'd be dead."
"Not really. I'm decked out in Gwion cloth from socks to hat." He cocked his mouth up in a fetching smile. Damn his good looks. "Your spell only helped us both lower down slowly." Looking back up to the top of the cliff some fifty feet above them, he pointed. "I would have surived the fall simply because of my clothing, but you wouldn't have been able to, so the spell worked for both of us."
The arrogant fool was overly confident in his clothes, but he was a Gwion, so maybe he wasn't so arrogant. Gwion cloth protected its own, but while it sounded good on paper, it rarely made sense in practice. Unfortunately, the opportunities to see its protective capabilities were few and far between. Mederei, while active and unaccustomed to most fears had a fear of crashing, so she rarely did anything which could aid a tumble.
Theoretically, the outfit Luna wore would have protected her much like Cardoc's clothes. After all, her garments were woven by a Gwion and had been dyed with a special dye that had some of her blood mixed in to seal the connection to her.
Putting theory to practice on so great a drop was not something she planned on doing, however.
Something else was wrong, though. Her wand was still in its holster. Was her magic becoming stronger? When she was very little, probably too young to remember, her father never used a wand, though her mother did. Was her father that powerful?
Some powerful wizards didn't have to use wands to direct their magic ... What was she thinking? She couldn't have become that strong overnight ... Could she?
Luna struck out across the rocks to the opposite side of the half-moon beach. It was nearly half the size of the one beside the hotel, and had no entrance save for Caradoc's tumble. To arrive there even required a walk of thirty minutes, though at their normal walking speed, it took only twenty minutes. The location north of the hotel wasn't part of the tourism cycle so few tourists were in the area.
"You've never seen Mederei withstand anything?" Caradoc caught up with her in moments then matched his stride to hers. He was taller than Mederei was, and Mederei was a little taller than Luna, but whenever the Gwion walked together, they fell into perfect step.
"She doesn't walk off cliffs."
"I was following the map."
"Haven't you ever learned to watch where you were walking?"
"And what would the fun be in that?"
Luna shook her head. It was pointless to argue with him, plain and simple. "What else does that map of yours tell you?"
"That we are in for some problems." Caradoc stopped and pointed to a cave entrance. "We have to go there."
"Where ..." Luna turned around to look behind them. "Where is the pathway to it?"
Grottos, even very old ones, should have some sort of path leading to the place of worship. There should be more than a cave entrance that hardly anyone could reach. Some places did have a hoist system, but this area, according to the research she and Mederei had managed, didn't indicate such a situation.
"Actually, I think we're standing on it." Caradoc kicked at a stone. If the pathway leads from that portion there," he pointed to where they had fallen, "and goes there," he pointed to the opening, "then most likely, it skirted along this path here towards there." He lowered his arm. "Meaning this is probably the old pathway which collapsed."
"But nothing else has collapsed."
"Maybe it was held up by the prayers of the petitioners and when they ceased coming, the magic wore off."
"So how do we get up there?"
"I figured the same way you got us down."
Luna put her hands on her hips. "I stopped us from falling."
Caradoc shaded his eyes with one hand and pointed up with the other. "Then you can make us fall upwards."
Luna stared at him.
Caradoc looked back at her, smiling. "Upwards," he repeated, this time drawing his hands in an upward direction. "There."
Luna crossed her arms and looked up at the hole.
"Use your magic. Hugh's too far away, and unlike Mederei, I don't plan for everything. I only brought a loom and some changes of clothes."
"I had a small project to work on for a friend ... Long story. I brought the loom and yarn, but I failed to pack any repelling equipment. So, let's fall up."
"That's not even logical! How can someone make someone fall upward?"
Caradoc lowered his hands and shrugged. "Medi does. I don't know how she does it, but she does. Why isn't it logical, anyway? Never thought of magic as being all that logical in the first place. I'm a weaver who can make things to protect people, but we're the only weavers who have that ability. I know dozens of other excellent weavers who can't protect ants with their tapestries."
Luna sighed, conceding the point, but more important issues were at hand. "I don't know what I did in the first place."
Caradoc looked at her. "You don't know?"
"I never pulled out my wand." She patted the holster where she held her wand.
"Amazing," Caradoc said. "You're getting more powerful."
"Or lucky," Luna said. "Did you bring rope?"
"I couldn't fit it next to the tent Brys insisted I pack, oh, and he sent gifts for everyone as well." He pointed to the cliff face. "How about you make steps up with the rocks?"
"If I use my magic now, I might not have enough later when we need it.
"And just what do you expect to find? Robbers? Monsters?"
"Fine." Luna removed her wand and pointed in the direction of the wall. She lifted her hands and ordering the stones to levitate, she moved them into steps. "Happy?"
Luna rolled her eyes and returned her wand. "No."
"Perfect. You need to exercise your magic so you can grow stronger." He ran up the steps to the grotto entrance. He pulled out a torch and ordered, "Light." The one end glowed, providing enough light to guide them.
"I could have used my wand," Luna muttered as she followed him inside.
"Course you could, but you got us up here, and I can lead us through it."
Luna touched the cave wall. It was dry to her touch, a certain sign something wasn't quite right inside the grotto as well. For a place this close to the sea to be dry, especially considering how rainy the land was, something was terribly wrong.
"Course it is; it isn't raining."
"Caves are normally wet even if it's dry outside because of the water stored in the rocks. A dry cave means it's a dead cave, especially around here."
Caradoc moved down the hallway. "Probably like everything else, it's lost its way because the god has left." He stopped and glanced behind him, waiting for Luna to join him. "What happens to gods when they're no longer honored?"
"Don't know. Some need prayers and offerings to survive. Maybe they fade away." She paused again to finger the grotto surface. Someone had taken time to etch words and images into the wall. What was the purpose? To lead in adoration, to warn? "These are old etchings in the walls."
"Any idea how old?"
Luna shook her head. The etchings weren't deep, but from what books said, it looked as though there was water running down the walls at various times. She touched the wall. "Maybe a four or five centuries." She fingered one word she recognized - fae - it was joined to another word she knew - tears.
"Maybe the two jobs aren't disconnected," Caradoc whispered into her ear. "I recognize that shape of this word - sorrow."
"Never doubted it, especially considering the storm clouds are over that way." She turned slightly to look at his face. He knew more than he let on, didn't he? Those Gwion brains never ceased to amaze her - Mederei had her library, but Caradoc probably had something similar he used.
And he was very close.
She shifted her weight slightly, but Caradoc had discovered something else. "Aha! Look at this!" He pointed a step or two away from their location. It was a demi-altar, or the candlestick holder as some people referred to the space. Normally, it was a place where candles and incense would be lit as the lowest form of offerings.
"I can't say I've ever seen one like this," Caradoc was saying as he stuck his head in the hole. "Ah, there's a chimney here. I wonder if that means this wasn't a demi-altar, but was something else."
Luna ignored him and walked quietly until she reached the end of the hallway which ended inside the grotto proper. A well sat directly across from the entrance, but no water filled it, though at one time, it would have been filled if the deep crevices above the well were any indication. At one time, the water in the cave would have been so abundant as to keep the well perpetually full, almost as if by magic.
What happened here?
Above the well was an image of a woman holding her hands over the water as though the water came from her. Her hair flowed like seaweed, though someone else would have given it a better comparison. The statue would have been painted, most likely at some point or enamled. Maybe something remained of what the color would have been?
Climbing into the well, Luna ran her hand across the woman's head and hair, waiting for the slightest indication, but nothing was there.
She sat on the edge of the well, and looked around the remainder of the space. A small alcove was hidden in the corner facing the ocean, but turned out to be little more than a crevice in the wall. Or, was it? Pulling out her wand, Luna pointed it at the wall. Something strange was here - not dangerous, but definitely magical. Maybe the grotto wasn't as dead as everyone was led to believe?
She pointed the wand at the back of the crevice, and was about to speak when Caradoc interrupted with a cry of amazement.
"Wait, I know her," Caradoc said. "I know that image at any rate, though I didn't know it was a goddess. Her name's Sæwine. She was a consort of the local sea god. Mederyn."
"Mederyn?" Luna returned her wand to the holster. "That's not connected to Mederei's name is it?"
"Close, but not quiet. Mederyn is great lord; Mederei is skillful lord, but Mederei's name is considered to be a diminutive of Mederyn's name as it is most likely a connection with it as it's believed he took the name when working. He was actually a quite gifted stone mason which would explain why this grotto is where it is, but I've never heard of anyone dedicating a grotto to Sæwine, usually it Mederyn."
Yes, he had a similar library in his head that Mederei had.
Caradoc waved the torch around the area. "Actually, oddly enough, Mederei's name is considered male nowadays, but for many years it was a girl's name, primarily because Merderyn had a daughter whom he named Mederei."
"When did it switch genders?"
"There was a daughter born to one of the noble families who was a great warrior. She died before she could have a child. When a warrior died childless, the family named the next child born after the warrior so the warrior's energy would pass onto the child. In their case, the child was a boy, so he had his aunt's name, Mederei, and he, in turn was a great warrior."
"She's mentioned him."
"He's well-known among the Caegwlanians for his bravery and utter stupidity."
"What a combination."
Caradoc shrugged. "He was male and stupid with women, but a great warrior nonetheless. After that, many sons were given his name in hopes they would be great warriors as well." He stooped to look at the wall beside the well. "Found something here." He pointed to the opening at the base.
"A witch hole!" Luna knelt beside him. "I haven't seen these in ages."
"What, exactly, is a witch hole?"
"And here I thought the Gwion knew everything," Luna teased. She patted his shoulder. "Actually, it isn't surprising you don't know. Innate mages can't use them, and they went out of style when the acquired wizards gained their ascendancy some eighteen hundred years ago."
Caradoc stepped back as Luna withdrew her wand.
Luna stood perpendicular to the wall, wand raised. She lifted her back arm as though to fence then with a flick of her wrist, she commanded the spell, "Reveal!"
The spell went directly into the hole and sizzled.