Chapter Eighteen - The Trail Upwards
"So, what are we going to do?" Caradoc said looking at the tapestry in the grotto. It was still quiet, but there were a few tourists in the area looking at the various items. "It's not like we can just simply take it down and go, you realize."
"Of course, I realize that," Mederei snorted as she crossed her arms. "What do you make me for - a rebel?"
Caradoc mimicked Mederei's stance. "Yes, you little monster. Who was the one who left the family business to become a mage."
"I was already a mage, I just now can practice and perfect my skills legally."
"Legally, my foot."
The Gwion tongue was unattainable by any who could not have access to the family. Even those born as Gwion without the Gwion in their lives were unable to fully understand the language. It was an old tongue with a handful of texts - all guarded by a series of impenetrable shields save for the Gwion. They were some of the last vestiges of a kingdom long since lost to time and history - the original home of the Gwion.
The people in the room were middle class. The men who were there had emblems of various business guilds. Most guilds required some sort of marking on their clothing to signify with whom the individual was associated. For many guilds, it was simply the business crest with the guild's name. For example, the baker's guild had a loaf of bread with various names on the bread. The guild marks associated with Fire Shadow and other mage guilds were their marks. The wizard class wore school colors of their university. The nobles wore their emblems, and the royals had a ring.
Only the Gwion did not wear an emblem - their clothing was enough to know who it was ... and their hair. The Gwion were blessed and cursed with red hair. Some say it came from their demidrake ancestor, fitz Hugh whereas others claimed it was a curse laid upon one who wanted to mark all the Gwion for posterity.
Neither story had been confirmed.
"They're giving us a wide berth, have you noticed that?" Mederei observed.
"They know I'm a Gwion, and they assume you're related somehow." Caradoc shifted his weight slightly. "They don't seem to be especially scared."
"Gwion daughters don't leave the households, everyone knows this," Mederei muttered.
"Yet, they follow your sisters' every move."
"That's within the realm of the capital. Haven't you noticed they never leave the capital? When Ceinwen does, it's under the cover of darkness."
Caradoc began to argue, but stopped as he realized the truth.
"Is there a law that I don't know about?"
"Don't know if it's a law or just tradition. Some traditions are as good as laws, though." Mederei sat on the bench facing the tapestry and stared at the woven structure which made up the picture. Some of the best weavers used the finest threads to manage the delicate shading that the Gwion were best known for. It took years of practice to create something this beautiful for it couldn't be achieved by magic alone, but actual skill to create the tapestry. The Gwion magic - that which made everyone want a Gwion cloth - was only formed with their weaving. Their magic did not make their tapestries, but enhanced their weaving.
"How long do you think it took them to weave these?"
Caradoc sat beside his cousin. "Better part of a year, maybe two."
"In that day and age?" Caradoc paused to do his calculations. He shook his head. "Probably the wealth of a small kingdom, which this may have been."
The five sisters were well-known even in their day for their abilities. By the time the five women had died, their family had begun to establish itself under Gwion, the son of Aoife and fitz Hugh, and the one from whom all Gwion claimed their ancestry.
It was known that the sisters possessed a certain amount of magic to their tapestries, but it wasn't until Gwion himself had experimented with the tapestry that he began to establish the code of the Gwion, and what their magic could do. Why would someone want the tapestries? What magic did they need to utilize the tapestries - a magic that was possibly faulty?
"They must have been desperate," Mederei whispered.
"Probably. Even at the end of their lives, little was known about the magic we had. What are we looking for here, Medi?"
"I don't know exactly, just something to help fit the puzzle pieces together."
Caradoc looked around the room. "How are we supposed to figure that out, if we don't know what the picture is supposed to look like? Whenever we find a missing puzzle piece, we need something that we can actually compare it to, otherwise it's just another puzzle piece that may or may not be connected to our puzzle."
Mederei raised a finger to argue, but lowered it a moment later. Of course, they were missing the picture, because they needed something to decide what the big picture was. All they had was a series of tapestries that were connected magically to a community's defense system. The defense system was not powered magically by the tapestries - that was another piece ... Most likely the missing piece of the whole mess.
Then they had to figure out what was going on out at Damla Isla, but that front was currently being managed by Hugh and Luna.
And, of course, there was Kiango's mysterious appearance as well.
"You know, there are too many moving parts," Caradoc grumbled.
"Can we back off from the confusion and focus on the parts for a moment?" Mederei suggested. She twisted to look at Caradoc. "What is it that we're good at?"
"Figuring out what others should be doing."
Caradoc rose. "You know, if we're going to find out anything, we probably should go visit the god we found."
Mederei blinked. "Like an actual god ... Immortal being with powers unsurpassed by the fae?"
"I didn't think they talked with mortals anymore."
Caradoc shrugged. "This one did. Knew your dad, too."
Mederei followed Caradoc out of the grotto with a shrug. "Everyone knows my father - even people who don't think they know him, know him."
Outside, they flagged down one of the myriad of taxis that crisscrossed the area. The place where the god's grotto was lay at the top of a little used trail. The taxi driver peered out the window. "There's a storm coming. You two have everything?" He looked in the rearview mirror. "You want me to remain?"
"Thank you, no," Caradoc answered. "We'll be fine up there."
The taxi driver shrugged, took their payment and sped off.
"Probably thinks we're a couple of fools," Mederei said. She looked into the bag she had brought with her. "I can remain out here for a day or two with the supplies in here," she announced.
"We are a couple of fools, but I don't plan on spending too long of a time out here." Caradoc started up the short flight of stairs at the base of the trail. "Hugh flew us up the last time we were here, but I don't think the walk up should be too terrible."
"How would people normally access this place?" Mederei inquired. The area was uninhabited, and unlike most of the region, this portion had a thick grove of trees. Many of them would bear edible fruits over the course of the year, though currently, they were just between seasons with one ending and one beginning. There were also plenty of trees with twigs which could be used to start small fires, a blanket of pine needles covered portions of the area, leaving a vast amount of space open for people to shelter under the trees in a sudden downburst of rain.
It was an area that was protected not by magic, but by a god since there were no threads of magic in this area. The threads the Gwion saw were formed by magic; the gods did something else, but it was never called magic. This place was where anyone could find safety and nourishment. Whoever this god was, it was important for him to protect people. He would be someone who would know more about this location.
As they walked up the path, they left the trees and started back into the barren, rocky area that the region was known for. At one spot, they stopped to rest. It had been the better part of two hours since they had begun. Below them, they could see the area of Rikusismos and the surrounding territory. The city was arranged sharp lines, centered around the grotto. Still, there were distinctive regions of the city. On a map, they would have been colored differently, but here above the city, the roofs appeared different enough to mark each section.
Was that by design or by happenstance? Was there a significant reason for the changes? Though, if there were five tapestries, it would indicate that each tapestry was connected to one of the regions. Or at least symbolism to the sections. Considering how important that tapestries were to their protection, it may have been that simple.
"Did you catch his name?" Mederei handed back the bottle of water Caradoc had brought in his sack. His bottle was magically imbued to never run out of water.
Caradoc took a swig of water before answering. "Bastllyr, but none of us recognized the name."
Mederei scratched her head. "Don't know that one, but there are too many gods and goddesses, so I have no idea how many there are."
"Wasn't there something in your research?"
"No; there wasn't. Odd isn't it?"
"Maybe they forgot about him."
"If he spoke with you, that isn't the case," Mederei reminded. The legends of the gods were that they had to be remembered by those on the mortal realms to be able to enter them. Without that knowledge, they would fade until they eventually were forced to return to the immortal realm.
Caradoc shrugged. "The city looks different from up here. I didn't notice it the last time."
"I was thinking about it as well. Maybe it's connected to the tapestries?"
"Symbolism or symbiotic?"
"It's centered around the grotto."
"Everything is centered around the grotto." Mederei leaned forward. "Do you remember the wide road in the center of town?"
"The one with the end of all things?"
Mederei twisted to look at him. "It is the road where the inn is on, isn't it?"
Caradoc nodded his head, giving her that expression he did when she was being especially thick. "It runs directly into the grotto. Why? What are you thinking about?"
"What if the grotto is both the center, and not the center." Mederei pointed to the road. "If we followed that road straight out into the sea, where would it go?"
Caradoc shielded his eyes while he thought. "Most likely straight out to Damla Isle." He lowered his hand. "That can't be insignificant, considering the ..."
"The tapestry, and Mithrilanna’s history ..."
"And the shape of the city ..."
"And the fact that there's been a drain on the power or that Ramses can't go out to the isle." Mederei slumped forward. "Caradoc, what if the missing power is the isle?"
"Ramses will have to look into the magic lines." He pulled out his glass to call Ramses who had been elsewhere. They talked quickly, but far enough away that Mederei couldn't understand them. Caradoc knew Ramses' native tongue, so they often used it to communicate quickly.
If the theory worked, they had a bigger issue. No matter how one managed it, there was no way any of them could put the isle back into the ocean. Even if they could, there would be a massive power surge as the stored-up energy ricocheted down the magical lay lines. The surge would place the protective magic of the tapestries to their uppermost, not to mention that there would be a large discharge of physical energy, mainly in the form of waves and earthquakes.
"We might have another problem," Mederei said, walking over to Caradoc who was still talking with Ramses.
"What's that?" Ramses inquired.
"Energy will overwhelm systems - magical and non-magical," Mederei answered before quickly explaining the best, worst-case scenario.
Ramses whistled. "We're going to have to talk with him, you know."
Mederei and Caradoc growled. "Why?" They demanded.
"Because he's here to help people, and it's connected to that, you two will have to put aside your differences for the greater good of Caergwlân."
Mederei and Caradoc looked at each other. "Just so he knows that it's a one-time deal," Mederei said. She pointed at Ramses. "You can begin the negotiations."
Ramses sighed. "I thought maybe that would be the case. Go find the god, and ask what he knows, all right?" He ended the call.
"Why is it that he's always the annoyingly mature one?" Mederei groused.
"Because he is the oldest," Caradoc suggested.
"That makes it most annoying."
"It does." Caradoc pointed to the pathway. "Let's go."
"I'd rather deal with a god than a prince any day of the week," Mederei agreed.