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Chapter Ten - Visiting Alfny

"Loonie?" Mederei asked, touching her earring. It was late, and the sun had descended beyond the horizon leaving only the brilliant reds and oranges of sunset. "Is this a good time?"
"We're in the middle of research, and I can use a break." Luna yawned.
Mederei laughed. "Ramses, Hugh and I were saying the same thing. Have you learned anything new?"
"No, not really. You?"
"Next to nothing. The information we did find was linked to their most recent events, or, well, the events since the separation." Mederei stretched her arms over her head and arched her back to one side then the other. "Honestly, I'm not exactly certain what we can do to help. One of the grosmater's said it was a trio of wizards who did this, but another one said it wasn't. They started debating about it, and now the entire community is involved. Ramses thinks he might be able to track down some more information, but he's having problems sensing everything around him. It's like ..." Mederei closed her eyes, trying to think back to how Ramses had worded the situation. "He thinks something is obstructing his magic, though I don't know if that's the best explanation. It looks like the magic is pooling into him."
"Pooling? I've never heard of that happening before."
"Agreed, but that's the best description. Maybe he has too much on him now, and it blocks his natural abilities. There's a lot of magic here, that's a fact."
"Didn't you say they asked for help from the fae? Ramses is a mage, and I've heard that the fae sometimes put surprises in for the mages especially if they happen to be in certain parts of islands."
"You mean like the sacred tunnels." Mederei grunted. "I'd forgotten about the wizard/fae alliance issue. Seriously, I don't know which is worse with those two groups. The fae I know don't act that way."
"The fae you know are a breed unto their own, Medi. They still have relations with that one dae kingdom on Pencaer. The majority of the fae really don't like the dae, despise the mages and generally make themselves out to be this hyper superior group. See them as the unlucky fruit of the fae." Luna was quiet for a moment. "So how do you figure we're going to be able to do anything?"
"We're not fae?"
"Suppose Caradoc could weave them back down."
"Doesn't work that way," Mederei grumbled. "And I would have to be one to attempt that. He has some magic through his father's side, but not nearly enough."
Luna laughed. "You both said the exact same thing." Her laughter turned into a gasp then a sigh. "Still, though, I'm not certain we're going to be able to do anything to help them. This has been going on for ages, and it doesn't seem to affect anyone save them."
"I'd be content with an old map of the place at this point," Mederei mumbled.
"Nothing in the books you brought with you?"
"I didn't bring any books with me, since I thought it was going to be a short trip. As for my library, since I never read anything about it, I don't have anything. While everyone seems to think my library is a storehouse of useless information, that useless information just doesn't show up ... Normally."
"Still, maybe you can let it do its thing."
Mederei closed her eyes to imagine her library. There, on a table near the fireplace, a glowing glass paperweight waxed and waned in brightness. The paperweight had been Luna's idea - a subconscious indicator of her brain working. For Mederei, she needed a way to gauge what her brain was doing and when she needed to give up. Utilizing her storyteller magic, she was able to create the paperweight, and connected it to her process. "Still working," she said, opening her eyes again. "It's sometime after ten here."
"Eleven here. We're both about ready to head to bed." Luna moaned. "I'm so tired at this moment. I've had to walk all over the area, and we only managed to visit two of the places. Did I tell you we found tapestries woven by Aysut and Enkee?"
"Surprising, but not entirely unexpected. They were well-known in their day even before our magic became what it is. Gramps suggested it was from their time period." Mederei nodded to the fae girl who refilled her mug of tea. Ramses sat nearby, but was engrossed in the debate among the elders.
"Caradoc says they had to have been here to weave these ones," Luna continued with her information. She paused, "Though, considering where they are and how they were woven. Makes me wonder why they came all the way out here. Wouldn't it have been a long journey for them?"
"Money most likely. Aoife always needed money to fix everything. Old castles were especially tough maintenance."
Luna went silent.
On her end, Mederei waited. Around them the festival continued unabated. Like others of their race, company was merely an excuse for a good party. Here on Damla Isle, the fae had gathered around a central part of the village center where they were able to lay out all their food on a central table, as well as sit, chat, and listen to those who played instruments.
The instruments themselves were made from locally harvested items - the bells were metal, the flutes were bamboo with intricately carved runes on them. The drums were made from large empty shells found on the island. The food was primarily fruits and vegetables, though they had fish from the sea, and birds and eggs harvested from the air and land.
For a people who had been effectively cut off from the rest of the world, they did fairly well. There didn't seem to be any sign of disease among them. Though, one could suppose that the fae rarely developed any diseases whatsoever. Must be their magic, after all.
"Does it still stand?" Luna asked finally.
"Aoife's castle?" Mederei leaned back in the chair she had claimed. "Some place it does, but I wouldn't know where to find it. It's a rather fluid location in all the stories. For all I know, the fae abducted it and put it into one of their paintings."
Luna said good night to Caradoc and a door closed. "You going to go see Alfny?
"Not at the moment; I'm currently reading through the general list of family history to see if anyone was near here at the time, but I'm not finding anything, at least, not my direct relations. I have a distant cousin or two, but I can't visit them."
"Maybe you could visit someone and they could get you the information you're missing," Luna suggested through her yawn. "I'm certain you have some scholar in your direct ancestry."
"Still need to know when everything happened."
"Alfny might know something."
Mederei rolled her eyes. Her however-many-great-grandmother was a meddlesome busybody. Unfortunately, she was also one of the most knowledgeable ancestors Mederei had. "Alfny will make comments about my love life."
"Or lack thereof."
"For someone who's been dead for three centuries, she's a pain. I much prefer visiting her when she's older though. When she's my age, she becomes that nosy friend."
"Could you visit her at some other time other than when she was nearly killed the first time?"
Mederei swung her feet around and planted them on the ground. "I can, but you just gave me a thought."
"Brilliant. Go have a thought, and I'm going to bed."
Mederei touched her earring again as she rose to sit closer to Ramses.
Despite having grown up in a large family, the fourth youngest of ten children, Mederei craved solitude. She needed it to reenergize herself which was part of the reason she chose to purchase a house as soon as she could. While the idea of parties attracted her, the time alone had been necessary.
"There you are!" Ramses called out when he saw her approaching. "Find anything?"
"Nope, but I'm going to go to bed soon."
Ramses' laughter dimmed, but he didn't say anything.
"I'm going to see Alfny, but I wanted to let you know. Are Hugh and Mithrilanna back?"
"They are, and he's around; dancing, I think."
"All right; wake me at dawn."
Ramses lifted a hand in acknowledgement and returned his attention to the party as Mederei wove her way back through the crowd towards the building they were staying. It was something akin to a hostel for travelers, providing some semblance of privacy for both travelers and locals. Unlike the hotel where they had a separate rooms, this one was a series of beds tucked into the walls with curtains to draw over the opening for privacy.
Mederei closed her books, returned them to her bag and set the bag on the shelf in her space before changing and climbing into bed. She curled up against the wall, and closed her eyes. Ceinwen had been the one who taught her to control her journeys a decade before. Like most of the Gwion, even most innate mages, her powers had appeared before she was six, but by the time she was seven, almost eight, those powers were almost too much for the family to contain. The best outlet had been weaving because she could pour her magic into the woven items without anyone realizing what she had.
They feared for her, not for her safety, per say, but because others would fear her. The first time she had wandered away was on her eighth birthday. Her grandfather had regaled them all with stories of daring do that Alfny and others had done. The thought of meeting Alfny had floated through her mind as she started to fall asleep, and there, in her mother's arms, Mederei had wandered back to see the greatest of the Gwion women - Alfny Gwion, the last woman to hold the office as the head of the family. It was because of Alfny's power, both her magical power as a storyteller and her influence as the Gwion, which had made the leaders of Caergwlân, and eventually the Forty Isles, lay down the many laws directed at the tapestry guilds and women.
After that night, Mederei had had to remain with Ceinwen until she could master enough of her magic to no longer be a threat to anyone.
Alfny had also helped, and despite the fact she no longer lived, it was often to Alfny that Mederei wandered when she needed answers. She may have been nosy when it came to love, but she loved fiercely, and protected whatever she had. If it wasn't for Alfny, the Gwion wouldn't be half of what they were. They may have been more, but she led them through some very serious attacks.
"What brings you here?" Alfny inquired from a seat in front of the roaring fireplace at the Gwion guild hall. She wasn't young or middle-aged, but not quite the guild master she would be at the age of forty. She was in her mid-thirties or so which would have placed her as the heir to the head, the same position that Mederei's brother, Brys held. She wore a woolen dress, and had a blanket tucked around her. Outside, a brutal wind blew.
"We had a job that turned into two jobs, but I think they're connected," Mederei answered before giving a shortened version of events.
Alfny sipped her spiced cider and closed her eyes. "Seems to me that I did remember hearing something about that." A book appeared in her hand and she leafed through the pages before stopping. "Here it is." The first book disappeared and a slim volume took its place.
One day, Mederei would be able to physically manifest the contents of her library as easily as Alfny could, but it took practice. She couldn't even show her library to anyone else.
"I was a child, about ten, when we first heard of the separation as you call it."
"Any idea who did it?"
"The rumors were a group of rogue wizards, but it was never confirmed, and the fae themselves don't talk about those things." She looked up and waved for someone. "The fae are rather particular about whom they trust."
While not nearly as bad as the dae of which only one kingdom remained, the fae were not known for their welcoming attitude to their own activities. They put their noses in everyone else's business, had an open-door policy to parties and festivities, but as soon as something happened regarding troubles, walls came up and door slammed shut.
"Apparently, some have tried to break the spell, but no one could figure it out."
"When you were a child ...." Mederei repeated. "I thought the fae were like the demihabilum and others."
"Like dragons and humans, it depends on the particular group. The fae you spoke with, I believe have a lifecycle between the humans and demihabilum. A normal lifespan would be a hundred and fifty years, maybe two hundred."
"But if this happened three hundred ..."
"I said we first learned of it when I was child. It was already old news. Father remembered hearing about it, but thought it was just a fairy story."
"Aren't all their stories fairy stories?"
Mederei grinned. "Still, Alfny, what is it about the island? Did they not give a gem to someone? Not to mention the storms that never come into the island."
"Storms?" Alfny took another sip of her cider then leaned forward to set her mug on the table between them. With her full attention now on Mederei, Alfny asked, "What sort of storm is this?"
"There's a storm on the horizon." Mederei motioned before her as though Alfny could see the storm. "You can see it from the Rukisismos shoreline, but it never changes, never moves. It's always there gathering. We saw it from Damla Isle, but with no changes even though we were another twenty minutes closer. Hugh and one of the fae flew out to see it, but once again, it seemed to be no closer, though the waters churned as a result of the storm."
"That's not normal."
"According to Mithrilanna they never had a storm or rain."
"The glass dome," Alfny whispered. "I've heard stories about that, but I've never met someone who's actually observed the effects of it." She lifted her hand to catch the attention of the barkeeper, ordering a bottle of cider for them. "It's an extremely dangerous spell to cast, and there isn't anyone in my time who can cast it by themselves."
"What about it the recent past?"
"Not since the last golden age."
The barkeeper brought over the jug of cider and a plate of cookies and small cakes. Alfny filled up both mugs.
Mederei drew her feet up into the leather and wood chair. The style of the guild in this time was more rustic than the elegance of her own time. Unusually for the Gwion, the chairs were covered in leather not Gwion fabric.
"Does the caster die?"
Alfny returned the plug and leaned back, mirroring Mederei's position. "Sometimes; not because of the spell, but because of the energy one poured out to create the spell. It can overwhelm even the healthiest of wizards." She motioned with her mug. "I should add it's only the wizards who can cast this spell. None of the innate mages or other magical races can cast it. It's considered one of the deadly spells because of this, their trump card, if you will."
"Why cast it?"
"Someone might have paid them, though if they were that powerful, I doubt if it was money they were after. My guess would be something to do with a kingdom."
"Another kingdom." Mederei sighed. She wrapped her hands around her mug and heated the contents up. "By my time, there are around fifty kingdoms in the designated Forty Isles. In your time ..."
"We have thirty kingdoms, but not every kingdom here is part of the confederation. We still have infighting between several kingdoms as well. Pencaer is currently in the midst of trouble."
The Island of the Five Kingdoms was one of the few islands which had refused to become one kingdom. Even in Mederei's time period, the island remained five separate kingdoms, one of which was currently the only dae kingdom in the world. During Alfny's time period, one of the kings of the human kingdom attempted to unite the island under his rule. He failed.
"So you think one of the other kingdoms attempted to take control or something?"
Alfny shrugged. "It's possible it's that simple, but ... I don't think it is." She motioned for a man to join them. "Cado, I need you to run up to the library and bring down this book." She scribbled a name onto a piece of paper.
The young Gwion member ran off to fulfill the request.
"What good is it going to do me if I take the book?" Mederei inquired. Alfny always managed to do something strange no matter how often they met.
"No idea, but if I remember correctly from one of my adventures, I was able to bring items from another time forward with me. I don't know if I took it out of time or what happened, but I did keep it in my own time period."
A book brought forward? They didn't time travel in the dreams as they were more of a connection between worlds. Alfny remembered Mederei from previous journeys. She was also able to deliver messages from others, though the message given and received had to be with the same Alfny. Mederei wouldn't be able to give a message to this Alfny and expect Ceinwen to visit a young Alfny to receive the message.
"We're scary."
Alfny nodded her head. "Which is precisely the reason the wizards want us destroyed."
Cado returned with the book. "I also found this one, but I don't know if it helps." He handed two books to Mederei. One, The History of Western Shores, was the one Alfny requested; the second, Magical Warfare in the Modern Age was what Cado found.
Mederei dropped both books into her bag. "You don't have any other information for me?"
"Not really. I can tell you, however, that if those are truly tapestries belonging to the five sisters, whatever magic is used will be greater than what you currently possess."
"Luna has magic greater than what I possess, Alfny." Mederei set her mug on the table. "I'm limited due to the laws, but to continue posing as a wizard is the only way I can continue growing."
Alfny sighed. "I understand that issue, Mederei. Even with your current magic abilities, their abilities are stronger mainly because they are only one or two generations removed from their magical ancestry. Whatever they created there was most likely woven towards the end of their lives - it's stronger than what I'm currently capable of doing."
Picking her mug up again, Mederei nodded her head once. "I understand. If we can't repair the magical barrier, what do you suggest?"
"Their magic is similar, but not quite the same as our magic is, especially the type of magic they most likely used when creating these items. Tapestries woven for the Gwion and our allies protect us due to the relationship we have with the cloth we weave. Those woven for others need another relationship, equally as strong, but not based upon the blood relationship."
What sort of relationship would that be?
"None of the Gwion live that far west," Cado observed. "I wonder what sort of community was there to begin with?"
"It's existed as a port community for a long time," Alfny answered. "At one point, the territory was much larger than it is now. Two massive earthquakes swamped the city, resulting in a great loss of life, but ..."
"The gods have disappeared," Mederei said. "According to Luna and Caradoc, their grottos and shrines are nearly disintegrated. Nothing remains." She looked at Alfny. "What happens when the gods disappear?"
Alfny leaned forward. "Are the tapestries connected to the shrines?"
"The first two we've found are inside, yes."
"There would have to be enough residual power there for them to retain their magic," Cado decided. He drew a box in the air with his finger. "It's like a container. Magic can be stored up inside it released as needed so that even centuries later, the magic remains. It's supposed to help the gods survive the lean years."
"What happens to them?"
"Mostly they return from whence they came, the Celestial Kingdoms. They have one kingdom ruled by the Uncreated One, but it's the desire of us mortals which brings the immortals to earth. The obeisance and honor we give them allows them to remain here, but without a constant renewal, they will fade away until the ties binding them here fray and they float back to the Celestial Kingdom. It's the Golden Cords."
"Depending on the time between their last use and your time, there must be enough residual energy for the items to be maintained unless they're being reenergized through an alternate means. Destroy that energy source and you'll destroy the magic of the tapestries; renew it, and you'll renew the energy source. Many of the old fae and dae arts included to safety measures since they knew blood and gods couldn't be relied upon to support a community."
"So I need to find the energy source."
"It would be a good starting place," Cado agreed.
Alfny lifted a finger. "First, you will need to discover the purpose of the tapestries. If it is simply to protect the community then their destruction or termination of power will suffice; if, however, they are needed to keep the land prosperous, waters away or prevent the destruction of the land from earthquakes, then the termination of power will be detrimental to all involve. Also, since you are working for a mage guild, you do need to know what the community wants since they hired you."
Mederei finished her cider and planted her feet on the ground. "Thank you both," she said. "It provides the information we need to help us."
"I will warn you, Mederei, to remain vigilant," Alfny said as Mederei began walking away. "The community is not as powerful as they once were, but even in our time they have strong allies among the leadership of the King's Councils. If the same is true then as it is now, they are under the jurisdiction of the Duke of Pichvelda."
Mederei turned back to look at her ancestor. "They still do."
"Then it is wise not to make enemies with the family."
"Wisdom often states we need to take an aggressive path to save the weak, Alfny," Mederei reminded her.
For a moment, Alfny stared slack-jawed at Mederei before starting to chuckle then laugh. In front of her, Cado closed his mouth, swallowing back his surprise as Alfny rose. "I believe my child has bested me with my own words, Cado."
Mederei smirked. "I learned from the best." She waved to them both. "Until later."
Taking a deep breath, she returned to the present, the space in the wall. Outside, she could hear Ramses murmuring which indicated he was either reading or talking with his younger sister. Light streamed in through the crack of fabric. What time is it? She peeked past the curtain and into the dark room. 
Plenty of time to sleep. Rolling onto her side, she fell back into peaceful slumber with no dreams.


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