Chapter Twelve - A New Trial
"So you're going to do the old switcharoo?" Caradoc said once everyone had gathered back at the inn and explained the situation. Caradoc remained in his pajamas, having only awoken because of Mederei, and the other three entering their suite. He was still a little annoyed with being so rudely awaken. "Shouldn't have purchased such a large suite."
"We need it," Mederei argued as she set a large cup of coffee in front of him, "if only to remain away from your snoring."
Caradoc crossed his arms and rocked in his chair. He had taken the most comfortable chair in the suite, and commanded the room like a prince. "I don't snore," he deigned.
"You do," the other four argued.
Mithrilanna laughed at them. "Such a wonderful locations. I cannot believe it." That had been the summary of most of what she said on the flight back. She had remained quiet for the actual flight, unable to speak beyond the basics. Hugh had kept a running commentary on the entire flight for Mithrilanna's instruction. After all, Mederei had insisted as they walked to the shore, Mithrilanna had never been off her island, and needed as much information as possible. Hugh, being a dragon could give her the information without verbal communications. Mithrilanna had inquired about Mederei's actual heritage, having heard of the Gwion. It wasn't as though Mederei wanted to keep everything secret, she just preferred to let people know on a need to know basis. Mithrilanna needed to know.
Luna, who sat beside Mithrilanna, gasped. "Haven't you ever been off the island?"
"Not in my forty years of life, no."
"Then we'll show you around," Luna assured her. "You can find all sorts of interesting things ..."
"I only have twenty-four hours here."
"Then we'll keep you up the entire time." Luna grinned. "It'll be like the first time Mederei showed me around the capital." Luna pulled out the brochures on the region, and huddled with Mithrilanna to plot their day's activities.
"What are you going to do?" Hugh asked Mederei.
"I'm going to huddle in a library corner. You?"
Hugh motioned to Ramses who prepared breakfast, and himself. "We're going with Caradoc to see about the other shrines. With me flying us there, we'll save a little time."
"So far all of them are decaying rapidly," Caradoc said. He leaned forward in his chair, planting his elbows onto his knees so he could look at his cousin better. It was a pose he used often to discuss a great deal of information, especially with family. The Gwion, it seemed, could absorb a great deal of information without needing to talk much. Most of seemed to come through the words they used and their collective history. Even though Hugh was a heritage Gwion and had grown up around the Gwion, the amount of information easily shared was enormous. It was even greater for Mederei and Caradoc who were cousins, friends, and blood Gwion immersed in their world.
"The tapestries remain constant," Caradoc began spreading his hands out between them, "but are most likely the only thing keeping everything in some sense of order. It appears, at the initial look, that the tapestries absorb the magic from the surrounding area ..."
"They don't produce it?" Mederei interrupted.
"Do their tapestries produce magic?" Mithrilanna whispered to Luna.
"Yes, and no," Hugh answered after Luna shrugged her shoulders. "They are holders of the magic that the Gwion who wove them put into it - for most of the sons, their magic is produced only when they weave, unlike the daughters like Mederei who can weave with words. However, the magic within the tapestries are connected to the Gwion and therefore, in essence, produce their own magic, channeling it from the greater Gwion magic."
"That makes no sense," Mithrilanna said. "I didn't know Gwion magic was so confusing."
It was that, but in its own logical way, the magic always worked. Caradoc and Mederei had continued to talk about the tapestries, but were stalled on another point: "That would be your specialty, since I couldn't see anything. I did, however, notice that there weren't any of the normal dyes we use for the blood rituals."
"Which makes it sound horrible, when you stop to think about it," Mederei groused.
Caradoc ignored her comment and continued, "Most of the colors appeared to be made from local dyes, and some, if we were able to analyze the materials, may now be extinct. I recognized some of the colors used, and I noticed that certain plants are quite common around here such as Hen's Breath and Herbalist Mare."
"And they used them?"
"I believe so."
"Herbalist Mare is a tricky plant," Mederei murmured as she leaned back into her chair. Her expression grew clouded, and for good reason. Their mutual aunt kept Herbalist Mare at her home on Demihabil Island. It was a poisonous plant she used for medicinal needs as well as dyes. It was also a very beautiful, shocking red plant. Herbalists, at one point, were the only ones who were allowed to grow the plant due to its poisonous nature. It was called, originally, Herbalist Nightmare, but the name had shortened over time, as people forgot about the dangers.
Ramses called for them to come to the table for their breakfast. After they had gathered and began eating, Luna raised a hand. "What do you mean by blood rituals and dyes? Weren't these woven by the five sisters and therefore before any of your sordid affairs?"
"Sordid affairs?" Caradoc gasped. He set his teacup back onto the table and placed a hand over his heart. "What sort of monsters do you make us out to be?"
"Any and every sort," Luna answered. "Do you use specific dyes for the blood stuff like at Fire Shadow?"
"Yes," the Gwion and Hugh answered.
"You're not supposed to answer," Mithrilanna said to Hugh.
"He's heritage," Caradoc said. "And yes, Luna, we do have specific dyes. Handed down from time out of mind. Most likely Gwion himself." He paused to look at his cousin. "You don't suppose these are those, do you?"
Mederei shrugged. "Doubt it. After all, wasn't the legend that they were for a powerful kingdom to defend against the evils therein?"
Caradoc snorted. "You do remember who runs this place, right?" He reached for his glass and showed an image of the current Duke of Pichvelda. He was a rather snarling individual with a great deal of bushy brown hair, streaked with gray. He had beady little eyes that peeked out from under two brownish gray brows. His mouth was set in a permanent line as though someone had just opted to paint a thin line across the lower portion of his face.
Mederei, however, chose to ignore her cousin. "What do you think Cado meant by an alternative power source?"
"Ignoring the obvious isn't going to change the facts, little girl."
"Don't you little girl me, you big monster."
"I'm not a monster for pointing out the obvious."
"Luna said you were a monster."
"Leave me out of your family spat, you two. I'm trying to organize our day. Besides, concerning everything else, we most likely need to learn why someone would ..." Luna stopped at the sound of a trumpet. In the capital region it indicated the presence of one of the royal family members, but in this part of the kingdom it may have been a kid practicing.
Mederei and Hugh went to the balcony too look for the origin of the tune. Below them, a black carriage drawn by four equally black horses stopped at the base of the hotel. For a moment, it appeared no one would exit, but the door opened as a lanky, but attractive male dressed in gray trousers and a loose button-down navy shirt stepped out. He wore boat shoes and sunglasses, but despite it all, the appearance of the young man was enough to elicit screams and cries from most of the women in and around the hotel area.
"What is that racket?" Luna demanded. "Some boy band show up?"
"Worse," Mederei sighed, returning to the interior of their suite. "Kiango arrived."
"Drats; what does he want?" Caradoc muttered. He slathered a layer of jam across his toast before biting into it. He chewed in silence, but glared at the balcony.
"You know this man?" Mithrilanna inquired, her gaze shifting from Luna to Mederei, over to Caradoc and back to Luna. "Are you not happy for his arrival?"
"He's not entirely evil," Luna began, but at the snort and grunt of outrage from the Gwion, she looked at Mederei and Caradoc for an explanation.
"Just nine-tenths evil," Caradoc interrupted. "He's bound to have come to cause troubles for someone. Remember how he took that potion and gave it to ..."
"I know!" Mederei exploded from her seat beside her cousin and across from Ramses. "Or what about that time out at the resort when he ..."
"So long as the someone isn't us, we'll remain out of his way," Hugh said, taking the adult role. He put a silencing hand on either Gwion then walked over to his chair beside Mederei. Sinking into the chair, he looked at Mithrilanna across from him. It wouldn't have been so bad had she not been there. At least, one could argue that theory, but it wasn't entirely accurate, was it?
Kiango, the crown prince of Caergwlân arriving at this place at this time was most annoying. What could he possible want? Beside Hugh, Mederei grumbled under her breath. She and the prince had an on-going spat based upon mutual disgust. They didn't exactly hate each other as they did have some semblance of mutual respect, but that was where any unity ended. Unfortunately for the two of them, and fortunately for the remainder of the world, they could agree on two things - first their mutual love for their best friends who happened to be brother and sister, and second, their love of their kingdom.
If they ever went to war - and the gods forbid it happened - it would most likely because of differing views on how to protect Caergwlân, and the only who would be able to end it would be the siblings.
"He could want this suite," Luna suggested.
Hugh glared her into silence. To even remotely suggest that they could interact with the prince more than absolutely necessary was uncalled persecution. It was bad enough that Mederei and Kiango were in the same town at the moment. Their parents had been able to maintain some semblance of respectability from the two, but Hugh was out of his league with both.
Hopefully, he wouldn't have to drop them both into the ocean. It had been done before to indeterminate success. Maybe he should put a call into Ceinwen before it went much farther ...
"Just a passing thought," Luna whispered.
"I know, but it's disconcerting," Hugh said, referring not to Luna's suggestion, but the presence of the prince.
"He's most likely absconded the house on the hill," Ramses placated as he sipped his coffee. He made his extra strong and only he and Mederei seemed to enjoy it black. "And was most likely there already. Since neither of you care about him, nor do either of you read the gossip columns, you don't know where he has been."
"He was still in the capital when I left," Caradoc announced. "Gwen told me."
"And how would my little sister know this?" Mederei demanded.
"She reads the gossip columns," Luna said. "We talk about things since you refuse to discuss important matters, and your sister does."
Mederei moaned. "If he's just arrived here, it probably means he's coming here."
"Here here? Or just here there?" Mithrilanna squeaked. "I don't want to meet this monster."
"He's not a monster," Luna said, with a passing glare at the Gwion. "He's a pleasant enough individual who goes out of his way to ..."
"Harass the living daylights out of us," Mederei finished. "An incompetent, arrogant, half-witted son of a ..." She drew herself up with a deep breath. "He's annoying."
"But quite well-versed in the many ways to annoy them," Luna explained. "He and Mederei have a long history spanning since their childhood."
"So I gathered," Mithrilanna observed. "When did the king take the throne?"
"About two years after I was born," Mederei answered. "Fifteen years or so ago. His son's been annoying me from day one."
"Is that all?" Ramses teased.
"Yes, because when our mothers were carrying us, I didn't know him."
A sly smile tipped the edges of Mithrilanna's lips. "It isn't that you like him, is it?"
The room went deathly silent. Outside, children shrieked as they played on the beach. Countering the shrieks, the gentle rhythm of the ocean waves slapping the beach entered the room. Below them, people continued to talk, but the man whom the Gwion despised remained blissfully silent. Mithrilanna's smirk faded under Mederei's glare.
"I take it's a no?" Mithrilanna asked.
"It's a no," Mederei confirmed, each syllable sharp and quiet. "I'll be at the library all day," she informed the others, collecting her items. "Anyone needs me, that's where I'll be."
"Don't break anything," Luna ordered.
"So long as that ..." Mederei pointed to the window. "That thing out there remains away from me, nothing will be broken." She stalked out of the room.
"Should we go after her?" Mithrilanna inquired.
"Not in that mood," Ramses said. "She'll attempt harm at that point."
"What exactly is their history? Former lovers? My people are rather placid compared to the Gwion, but we have many books and stories. Usually that is the reason for such animosity."
The others laughed not so much out of humor, but to ease the tension. "Nothing so romantic," Luna assured Mithrilanna. "They've always been at odds. Like chess pieces, I suppose. Mederei's the queen; he's the king, and never the twain shall meet."
"She's white and he's black?"
"I'd reverse it, because for all their animosity towards one another, and our dislike of him, he has done some good. It's just ..." Hugh's voice faded. "There's more to it than simply disliking each other."
"Like being on the opposite sides of political debates," Caradoc suggested. "Though some would argue that if one was for something, the other would oppose it on principle. Whatever the case, it isn't one-sided on Mederei's part."
"Ah," Mithrilanna said, rising. "Then they can solve their own difficulties, and I will remain some distance away."
"You're probably safe on the island," Luna suggested. "Anywhere in town will most likely be battlegrounds should the two ever cross paths."
"Would they fight?"
"No," the men said, but Luna only shrugged as she and Mithrilanna left for their morning adventures.
While it may have not been the wisest thing to do, leaving Mederei to her own whims was the easiest choice. Safely hidden away at the library would prove to be less troubling than having to constantly shuttle her around from place to place.