Howl's Moving Castle Fan Fiction ❯ The Daemon Wars ❯ Chapter 6: Ancient Words ( Chapter 6 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
The Daemon Wars: Part IV of the Wallmaker Saga
Chapter 6: Ancient Words
Barimus woke to discover he had a hangover: a tell-tale sign he had been drugged.
The red wizard blinked groggily in the darkness that filled his room. He had no idea how long he had slept, although it had probably been for quite some time. Howl was gone, but that wasn't a surprise. It had been good to see his brother, in spite of the harsh words they had shared. The Royal Wizard lay back with a grimace as he remembered what the Wallmaker had reluctantly shared with him: the daemon queen was still alive. Just the thought made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, and every deep shadow in the room felt menacing. But the room was thick with the smell of agrimony thanks to the green candle marked in blue which stood on the table next to Theresa's things.
Besides a powerful need to eat, and the wicked plans of retribution he was formulating for his wife and her apprentice, the blond man felt fine. Better than fine, he felt the best he had in a long time. Suddenly he became aware of the strange lightness that had replaced the dull constant throbbing in his lower legs. With a stab of irrational panic the golden-eyed man thought they might have amputated his legs while he slept. Throwing back the bedclothes, displacing papers, desk, and books indiscriminately, he stared down at his bare shins.
The handsome man stared dumbly for a moment. Then in the way that a hunter focuses the sight on their weapon, Barimus flexed his othersenses. The wizard deftly picked up the sharp tang of foreign sorcery beneath the thick agrimony smoke. Someone had used magic on his body, and he was able to read the spell in the same manner any person might read a book. It had been specifically drafted to heal his broken legs, fusing the bone, repairing the bruised muscles and damaged sinew. This was a skilled enchantment, one that could only have been performed by a magus with knowledge of both healing and magic. There were none in Kingsbury that he knew with such abilities.
Hesitantly, as though he were afraid his foot would fall off, the Wallmaker's brother wiggled his big toe and experienced no pain. He slowly bent one knee and then the other, gently pivoting and stretching. Emboldened by his success, Barimus swung his legs over the edge of the bed and placed his feet firmly on the floor. Sitting there with hunched shoulders, he marveled over how amazing the littlest things could be when not taken for granted.
It was then that he heard his wife's voice in the adjoining room. Martha rarely spoke and even more rarely used such a gracious tone.
“I am in your debt, Healer Yewin… truly grateful you traveled so far to help my husband.”
“Not at all, Lady Martha,” replied a jovial voice that was gruff and scratchy like an old man's beard, “It's good to get out of Marda every so often. Besides, Prince Justin was on his way here anyway to see your Emperor. I'm only sorry it was such dire circumstances that brought me here.”
“Would you like some tea, Master Yewin?” Barimus recognized Theresa's gentle voice.
Tea indeed! The red wizard did not think he would ever be able to stand the stuff ever again.
“No, thank you sweetheart. It's late and I must be off! Need to see those ruddy Coucilor's about this madness of enchanted bells and banishing mirrors. See that Barimus gets well right quick. It's rather clear that he's the brains behind that colossus and right now those idiots are bumbling about without a head.”
But Master Yewin lingered, clearly wanting to chitchat. So the man was a Mardan magi-healer? Perhaps he could be enticed to stay and teach at the academy. But the red wizard was of two minds about this new master; he did not like the chummy tone with which the magi spoke to Theresa. It was too friendly, in his opinion. However, his attention fixed with absolute singularity on the conversation that followed.
“Have you seen that poor man? You know, the cursed Wizard Guard they brought back by portal magic from Market Chipping around dinner time?”
“His name is Seran,” Martha replied in a quiet voice.
“Well, word travels quickly in the Palace, you know. Too bad about his friend, the solider that was eaten… horrible, horrible…” Muttered the man huskily, “It seems like the daemon's curse is lingering long about this poor fellow, Seran you said? Did you hear? Its effecting other's, anyone that touches him. One of the responding solider laid hands on him accidentally and lost a quite a few years. Turned grey as a field mouse, he did!”
The red wizard almost went storming into the antechamber at that. Daemons in Market Chipping? One of wizard guard was cursed and a soldier dead!? Had the whole world fallen apart while he was sleeping? Although as he attempted to stand stabbing pains shot through his legs and he was forced to sit, clutching at the footboard and barely containing a groan through gritted his teeth. Apparently the Mardan's magic did not cure all his ills; there was still a fair deal of painful atrophy and stiffness. But the man remained silent, hoping to hear more of what was going on Ingary since his family conspired to keep him oblivious.
“Prince Justin says King Ferdinand is in a tizzy. His Highness has even called King Walden down from Tyrn to try and reason with the Emperor. To a certain point I don't know that I can blame him, with what the Daemon Queen let loose on the country. But this is pure foolishness: banning daemon magic, burning enchanted objects, and hunting down spirits like their some kind of plague. I'm surprise the Wallmaker hasn't pitched a fit!”
Barimus was a well trained courtier and had an excellent ear for intrigue. He could hear the man's subtle digs for information; apparently this Master Yewin was fishing for more than kitchen talk. For some reason he appeared to be interested in Howl. The Mardan Magi were known for their ambitions as much as their notorious gossip. The blond man couldn't help but grin; if this wizard knew anything about Martha, he would realize he was barking up the wrong tree.
“I'm a hedge witch, Master Yewin. I would not presume to known what the Wallmaker does.” The herbalist in a flat voice whose tone made it rather clear she had finished with the conversation. The dark-haired woman was capable of courteousness, but only up until a certain point.
“Quite right you are,” The man's lame reply was inarticulate, “Well, I'm off! I shall call again to check on the Lord Councilor's condition. Good bye, Lady Martha. Good bye, dear sweet little Theresa.”
Barimus heard the door to the antechamber close and moments later his wife's apprentice let out a great sigh.
“Yuck!” The freckle-faced girl exclaimed in disgust.
Martha let out an unfettered laugh that made his heart melt. The golden-eyed man grinned and reflected on the nature of karma.
Standing again, the tall sorcerer clung to the corner of the bed and waited on wobbly legs until the pain passed. It did not hurt so much this time, although he nearly fell over again as a wave of light-headedness rushed through him. For a moment he was robbed of sight, but that too was fleeting. Regardless of his weakness, the blond man did not care to remain in bed any longer. He had to get out of this room and see to both King and Country. Using tables as support, he had just tottered to the doorway, which was open a crack. He nearly fell in surprise as someone came bursting into the antechamber. Barimus hesitated, listening in shamelessly.
“Dieter?” Martha exclaimed in surprise.
“Peoter, Lady Martha,” the green eyed twin huffed breathlessly.
“Dieter!” Theresa growled firmly, and the red wizard could hear the freckled man grinning in the silence that followed. The twins like to play games at the most inappropriate times.
“I concede, little mistress,” The man's burnished bronze voice was full of warm jest, although his tone chilled into seriousness as he spoke again to the herbalist. “Moments ago we learned that someone told King Ferdinand the Daemon Queen is still alive. Several Councilors have pronounced there is a correlation between the attack in Chipping Market and the monster's presence. The emperor is inclined to agree, although as of recent his majesty seems not to need much of a reason for anything. He's deployed an entire battalion of the army, including several airships, into the city and the surrounding countryside, including the wastes.”
“Market Chipping is already occupied,” Martha's reply seemed nonplussed, although Barimus could hear the slight tremble in her voice. His wife was terrified of daemons, in spite of her boldness in the recent battle.
How did the cat get out of the bag so quickly!? The twin hadn't said who told the king and the blond wizard knew for a fact that Howl would not have divulged such sensitive information to the king. And if he had, his younger brother certainly would not have tolerated the monarch to deploy an army into the wastes. The Wallmaker was particularly protective of Market Chipping and its surrounding country side. Barimus' mind began to turn furiously. Someone had been listening at doors, but to what purpose? But there was more, and Dieter continued.
“He's authorized the distribution of both bells and banishing mirrors to non-magical soldiers.”
No one had much to say after that because Barimus threw open the door to the bedroom giving everyone a fright. Hearing the wizard guard's last pronouncement expelled the golden-eyed man from any other thoughts. The Royal Wizard his best to stand imposingly in spite of the fact that he was wearing only a nightshirt and was forced to cling to the doorjamb for stability. Dieter, who had been stooped over his knees trying desperately to catch his breath, whipped upright and saluted the Lord Councilor. Theresa let out a small squeak and turned as scarlet as the twin's uniform, fumbling to catch her garden hoe. But as his eyes fell on the dark-haired herbalist he watched as all the color drained from her face.
“No, no, no!” Martha whispered; panic was bright in her voice as her green eyes went dark with dismay.
The green garbed healer whisked forward with open palms as though she were going to push the red wizard back into their bedroom. But her blond husband gently took hold of her wrists and managed to stand firm against the desperate insistence in her eyes that he go back to bed. Sensing his resistance, the herbalist fought against him with the full fury of her silent persuasion. However, Barimus managed to dissuade the healer by seizing her into a bone crushing embrace and kissing her so ardently she turned to water in his hands. He drew back and gazed at her with both desperate love and iron refusal to be shielded from the troubles of the world. But Martha stared back at him defiantly. All her worry, her fear for his well-being, and her frantic need to protect him burned like fire in her eyes. In spite of her hard expression, she clung to him dependently.
At that moment they were the only two people in the world.
“You have never before begrudged me my duty, beloved,” The Royal Wizard murmured softly, brushing aside the wild hairs that escaped the braid that crowned her head. She leaned into his touch, although her eyes were still bright with dissent. The herbalist looked awful, probably nearly as bad as he had when Howl came to visit. His wife had never been fully well since the incident six years ago, and it frightened him to see her looking to ill. The greenish cast that she took when she worked too hard had crept into her features, making her sallow and gaunt. The blond man was surprised Theresa hadn't drugged her as well.
“That was before,” She replied simply. But just as her eyes began to shine with unshed tears, her words were brimming with meaning. Before the world went mad, they said, before people started dying, before you almost died.
“You and Theresa can't keep me cosseted forever,” He murmured into her hair, the gentle admonishment was more for humor than reproach.
“You needed rest,” She mumbled stubbornly.
“I can't sleep anymore, Martha. I'm needed.”
“Yes,” She replied in a whisper so faint he barely heard it, although her grip on him tightened possessively. She looked surprised as he hugged her just as tightly, a fierce look in his golden eyes.
“Help me, Martha. I can't do this alone.”
She stared at him open mouthed as though she hadn't heard him correctly. But her jaw snapped shut and set itself in determination as she nodded firmly, joy lighten the fear that once hardened her gaze. The Lord Councilor suddenly turned his eyes to Theresa with a stern frown. The girl was bright pink, gently inspecting a cut on the back of Dieter's hand. Immediately aware of his look, she jumped to her feet, once again coloring to match the settee. The freckle-faced young girl came before them hesitantly, a fearful look in her eyes. Although it melted as she noticed the warm humor in her Mistress' husband's eyes.
“Would you like some tea, Master Barimus?” She asked in a small voice and the corners of the harsh frown twitched. She squealed as he shot out an arm and absorbed her into their embrace. My family, Barimus thought to himself as he held the two women he loved most in the world.
“You!” The Royal Wizard intoned as he released his wife and her apprentice to point a finger as one half of the Captain of the Ingarian Wizard's Guard. Dieter was currently doing his best to inspect the ceiling.
“Sir?” The man replied briskly and jumped to attention with a snappy salute.
“If I catch you or your twin flirting with Theresa ever again, I'll skin you! Got that? Now go find your brother, one of those blasted enchanted bells, and report back immediately with both. I don't care what time it is, we're going to see the King.”
“Yes, my lord,” Peoter replied with a grin. It was good to have the Lord Councilor back. He turned on his heel and retreated from the room. After a moment the red wizard sagged against his wife and she snaked her arms around his waist.
“Would you two be dears and help me back into the bedroom? I'm afraid I'll fall over if I don't have a sit…” Barimus spoke weakly.
“Oh! Find me some pants too.”
Nox swayed gracefully, a smile of joy on his serene features.
The tall man swished his hands back and forth atop the flowers that grew tall in the wastes. As he walked the blossoms came alive, clambering off of their stems like little living lights dressed in petals and dew. The young little daemons danced about his feet and waved from tall stalks as they sang in a tiny chorus of jeweled voices. The bolder spirits among the creatures clung to the hem of his velvet violet cloak, they sang gleeful as he spun in place and laughed out loud to hear the delight of his cousins. It was like listening to the sound of gold shining in the sun.
Followed after him, Deirdre beamed as brightly as much out of happiness to hear the flower spirits singing as to know that someone other than her could see and hear them. She began to feel more and more comfortable in the man-daemon's presence; the kindness within him seemed to radiate from everything he did in the same way the stars twinkle in the sky. She knew she could trust him, he had already proven that in the place beyond wherever here was. She was so glad to finally have a friend that she forgot the pain in her arm and the numbness that was beginning to spread to her fingers. However unconsciously, she still favored her arm.
The movement was not lost to Nox's sharp eyes; the perceptive man communicated more with gesture and expression than words. His humor shifted quickly.
The petal spirits gave a sigh of apprehension and fled back to their mother flowers as all around the star daemon seemed to still. The tall man turned and approached Drie with such purpose she flinched and stopped dead in her tracks. But the look on his face was gentle concern and he reached with a fluid gesture full of meaningfully towards her arm, a question bright in his eyes. Hesitantly at first, she extended her pale arm and drew back the sleeve to show the wound just above her elbow. It did not hurt when it struck her, she had cried out from surprise more than pain. But now she felt light headed as she realized the skin around the metal had begun to turn a sickly looking black. It itched horribly. So she was not as imperious as she once believed.
But apparently it was a serious matter to Nox, who cast at her such a look of consternation and horror that she uttered a nervous titter. The liquid look transformed into another question, his brow furrowed slightly as the words eluded him.
“How?” He managed to say finally in a flat voice. Was he angry?
Deirdre looked away, shame hot on her cheeks. She could not seem to find words to describe what had happened. But she realized she didn't need to. Instead she sent him a jumbled mess of sensory messages that would only make sense to other kindred. His response was interesting, a mixture of cold shock at the behavior of the humans, especially the wizard, and bright curiosity over the nature of Door. But his thought melted into hot rage over the violence that had taken place before cooling into keen indigo sorrow over the loss of life, both human and spirit kin. It was wonderful to be able to communicate thus, in spite of the difficult subject matter.
But for the first time she could remember in a long time, Deirdre felt comfortable in her own skin.
With gentle dark hands, the star daemon took hold of her arm at the elbow. His amethyst eyes softening contritely when she cringed in pain as hot tears started down her cheeks. Nox pulled the silver-haired girl against him for reassurance as he ran his hand over the wound. In a flash of star fire her arm liquefied for a moment and he snatched his closed fist away. Drawing back, he revealed to her the tiny slug of copper that glinted in his upturned palm. Inspecting her arm, the Wallmaker's daughter found only a faded mark that resembled a bruise. The silver-haired girl picked up the bullet. As she stared at it her mood shifted to the morose; this tiny bit of metal had cost a mortal's life. It all came rushing back to her, everything that had happened, how much had changed, and how alone she felt.
She gave Nox quite a fright as she crumbled against him and the little six-year-old inside her began wailing despondently. But the star daemon laughed compassionately in a sound of gold and wrapped his arms around her, gently swaying side to side. After a while she stopped and looked up at him somewhat contritely only to see him smiling calmly at the sky overhead.
Door left the green mother, but did not go to mortal city where she had been commanded.
The chimera felt so lost and small she knew not what to do. She understood that what green mother asked her to do was wrong, but what choice had she? Kill or be killed, her daemon-half growled within her. Door did not want to go back to the burned place; just the thought of it sent her to pieces. She wanted to stay in this world, feeling the warm sun on her bare limbs, breathing air that was clean and fresh. She wanted to meet the silver mother. She wanted so many things that she had never even thought about as a daemon. But most of all, she wanted to be with the other. The silver sister felt so clean and wholesome, being near her made Door feel the same. The chimera was touched by the madness beyond the black barrier; she knew it because she felt the taint in her very being. Killing the old mortals made her feel even more sullied, like she was mired in tar and could not escape.
She needed to feel whole again, and so she sought out the other.
Although they could not communicate over great distances, it was never hard to find the silver sister. All she had to do was follow the line that connected them; as such she emerged from the portal on the wastes to the north. Door immediately liked these untouched moors, daemon kin lived her freely and old magic seeped deeply into the ground. Petal spirits laughed and sang to her as they emerged from the flowers all around her.
But ever here there were the marks of humans.
A tiny building, too small to be a dwelling, showed plainly in the bowl of a gently sloping valley below. As the half-daemon stared at it, the mortal magic imbibed in its bricks and mortar crept through her senses, filling her with a violent rage. Even here the flawed touch of mortals could be seen. Must they ruin everything!? She was distracted from the urge to smash the building to pieces as an overwhelming rush of sorrow filled her. The other was crying again. Tenderness and worry filled the chimera as she hasted to find the silver-haired child-woman. But not far beyond the building Door stopped dead in her tracks.
There in the distance on the shores of a series of high alpine lakes, was the other. But she was not alone.
Door burned with rage of a different kind, an emotion she had never felt before: jealousy. There was another daemon with Deirdre, tall and with hair as white as snow. She sniffed, catching faint hints of his magic. It was a star demon; a male. That gave her pause because he was a powerful ancient; for too old and full of magic for her to attack. But, what was he doing with the silver sister? She peered intently at them. He was holding her, comforting her; indeed she could feel the blue-eyed child-woman rise out of her sorrow into happiness. How dare he!? That was her right! Silver sister was hers and hers alone!
MINE! Door's thought echoed thick and black with furry as her hand's coalesced into claws. The half-daemon did not think she could ever hate someone more than the Wallmaker, but apparently she was wrong. A growl rose unbidden from her throat, thrumming deeply in her chest. The flower spirits that had been dancing around her suddenly fled her rage in terror. But the daemon was brought up short by another presence that approached from the north. The ancient had the smell of the Beginning in its magic. This spirit was older still than the star daemon, and the menace in its intent chilled the chimera. She experienced a moment of fear for the other, but her instincts took over and the doppelganger fled the wastes.
Kill or be killed, the daemon within rumbled.
Markl wasn't the only one in the castle who was having trouble sleeping.
Akarshan stared at the ceiling in his room. Listening to the gentle ping and clang of the wind chimes his father had made for him did nothing to make him feel sleepy. At first he thought that he was hungry, because there was an anxious feeling in his stomach. But he had glutted himself on éclairs earlier at Auntie Lettie's shop, so it couldn't be that. Perhaps it was because his mother yelled at him and hadn't tucked him in? Perhaps it was because Deirdre had left? He missed his sister immensely, even thought it had been only a few hours.
The first night his mother came home with his sister they spent in their parent's room. The second night he crept into Drie's room after Sophie tucked them both in. It was great to be a twin, he decided that the moment he saw his sister. Sure, she had changed a bunch, but it didn't bother him at all. She was the same inside; it didn't matter what she looked like on the outside. It didn't even bother him that she was scary sometimes. Besides, Deirdre was all kinds of fun. Plus she could fly! Maybe she'd teach him how sometime soon?
He had hoped that things would go back to normal, but the more he thought about it, things probably never would. Akarshan wasn't sure what had happened, but he new something big had changed. He saw it in his mother's eyes. Wherever she had gone had been a bad place, he could tell by the way papa grabbed onto her like he was afraid she would go away again. Shan grabbed on to her the same way when she first came back. Was Deirdre going to go away too?
When Shan heard his brother's door open and shut he sat bolt upright in bed. Creeping out after his brother, he almost followed him downstairs when he smelled something funny. The squirrel feeling in his stomach started up again and the little blue-eyed boy decided to snoop. He listened to his brother and Calcifer talk, baffled by their talk and why Markl was digging around in his father's pockets. The queasy feeling in his belly got worse as his father's student pulled a roll of paper from one of the coats checkered sleeves. The raven-haired boy dashed to his feet and hid in his sister's room as he realized that both Calcifer and his brother were coming upstairs. But they didn't go into Markl's room, instead they continued down the long hallway to the workshop door. Akarshan wasn't allowed to go into his father's office alone, so he had assumed neither could anyone else. Intrigued he followed along.
Sitting on the step at the top of the stairs, the six-year-old listened intently to the silence within the room. Shan was a very hyper little boy for whom sitting still had two effects: he would either vibrate in place, or fall fast asleep. The later was the case, and soon the Wallmaker's youngest son was fast asleep. However, he was jerked out of a dream of falling stars as Howl's apprentice quitted the workshop and quite literally flew down the stairs.
“Markl! Wait!” Calcifer cried, completely overlooking the raven-haired little boy as he went speeding after the young wizard.
Shan stood up and tottered into the well lit workshop in a state of half sleep. Tired by the day's events, his normally all encompassing state of curiosity was bested by his need for a warm place to lie down. So the raven-haired boy curled up in the corner of the room on a pile of cushions. Reaching blindly, he pulled something akin to a blanket off of the wall above him.
Akarshan wrapped himself up in the sheet, oblivious to the naked mirror next to him.
Why do you cry, little star? Nox's query curled like a crystalline ocean wave within her mind as he turned his eyes back to her from the sky overhead.
As she clung to the star from another world, pressing her face into the soft velvet of his cloak, she told him everything in a great gush of sight, sound, and smell. The man-daemon processed the life story of the Wallmaker's daughter without even a flinch, although his liquid eyes grew dark and serious. Deirdre had never told anyone about she and Door had come to be together or about how they separated. Nor had she described the cold difficult life she endured with Mrs. Danna or the horrible things the cold healer had forced her to do in the otherworld. The man-daemon drew back and stood to gaze straight into her eyes.
No more tears, silver one. I am here to help, it is why I fell. We go to see your parents! Nox replied briskly as his face burst into the dazzling smile of a person who has absolute confidence in himself. He seized her hand, half starting up into the air surrounded by bright star fire. But Deirdre yanked him back down like an anchor mooring a ship with sails full of the wind.
“We can't go now!” She cried incredulously in mortal words, “It is the middle of the night. Mother and father are probably fast asleep. Perhaps we should wait until morning?”
Nox sank slowly to the ground with confusion plain on his face, his snow white hair was wild about his face.
“Please… What is sleep?” Nox asked in halting human speech. Deirdre stared at him, quite at a loss for what to say.
But they were both distracted from a conversation about human complications by a strange vertigo sensation. A strange spicy smell filled Deirdre's nose as an odd premonition filled her with restrained excitement: something was coming.
“What's that smell?” She asked Nox curiously.
However, her companion stood bolt upright, his violet eyes distant as he gazed off to the north towards the heart of the wastes. The flower daemons, who had still been singing to them in hopeful song, sudden silenced winking out of the mortal world. The premonition changed, where once it was familiar and filled her with excitement, the sensation left her feeling cold and heavy with dread. The darkly tanned man-daemon suddenly stepped in front of her, a serious expression flitting across his features. The look did not suite the star daemon, Deirdre decided
“What is it, Nox?” She asked again, fearful now as she reached out to take a handful of his velvet cloak. The ground beneath their feet trembled violently as a resounding rumbling emanated deep from under them.
The tremor's ceased and there was a tense moment of silence. Suddenly the ground before them split with an earth-shattering roar, rearing up into a towering figure of rock, loam, and green growing things. Deirdre was assaulted by the overpowering smell of rain and wet clay, like a forest after a violent summer shower. The great elemental solidified in the way that mud and packed soil settle beneath the rain. Twisting vines covered in sprouted leave move through its shape like living snakes. Clods of dirt fell away as it passed a gnarled hand of roots over its face, revealing a human-like visage amongst the long grass and flowers of her hair.
The immeasurable depths in the ancient being's eyes swirled with furious mysteries, glittering at them like points of obsidian. The tremendous earth spirit was old, the Wallmaker's daughter realized; older than Nox, older than wizards. And she was angry. The ancient drew itself up, towering above them as she gathered rocky handfuls of herself and hurled man sized boulders at the pair. The silver haired girl shrieked as the star daemon stood firmly rooted before her. Nox hummed resonantly as a pulse of magic emitted from him like a wave of tangibility; the huge rocks fixed in place and fell harmlessly at his feet.
LEAVE MORTALS! The earth spirit thundered in a sound akin to the splintering thousands of trees. She lashed at the green hills around her with the intertwining vines that made up the garment of her form. Her limbs groaned and creaked like the boughs of a wood in the strongest of gales. Unperturbed, Nox did not move.
We are not mortals, Mother Ancient. The star daemon replied calmly and his voice rang loudly in her mind like a bronze bell. The white haired man reached out his hands peacefully, but the elemental was not so easily pacified.
The Wastes are mine! Touch my children and I will destroy you! Bellowed the earth spirit as she bent towards them menacingly, green fire burning in her eyes like cinders.
Look close and be tranquil, Green Spirit. Would I hurt my own kin? The man-daemon replied with gentle humor. Finally the great daemon of earth and rock seemed to see through her rage, peering closely at the tall man and the silver-haired girl. Deirdre cringed in terror, clinging to the violet-eyed man as a mind brushed her own that was so vast it sent her knees trembling. When the earth mother spoke again her words flourished verdant and viridian in Drie's othersenses, unfurling like a great branching fern.
I know you, kindred; you are the Elder Star. Do flee here from the red ones?
The red ones? Nox asked curiously, turning his bright eyes over his shoulder to where Deirdre was hiding.
“The wizard with the bell and the mirror,” Dierdre whispered fearfully, one eye on the man-daemon and the other on the giant ancient. The earth mother stiffened at the sound of human speech, astonishment bright in her dark eyes. The ground shuddered again as the elemental tore up the roots at her base, scattering dirt and leaves into the air and lumbered forward with slow purpose. The Wallmaker's daughter shrank in terror and the man-daemon gave a surprised yelp as Drie unconsciously pulled him backwards, attempting to hide in his shadow. But as the ancient bent from her waist to lower her eyes closer to the pair of tiny half-daemons, there was no longer any malice in the earth mother.
You speak the mortal words, Star Daemon?
I hear them, but the words are still beyond me. The silver one speaks them well. Nox replied to the giant as though they were having polite conversation over Sunday tea. The man-daemon gently guided Deirdre from behind him, presenting her to the ancient. However, it took a moment to pry her hands from his cloak. She is the daughter of the Wallmaker.
This seemed to give the soil spirit pause and the embodiment of the hills nodded respectfully.
The Wallmaker is well known to us.
Again she peered intently at the girl, leaning forward so closely that the silver sorceress' daughter could see the individual leaves that clung like ivy to the daemon's form. In spite of her terror, the spirit smelled good; her spicy loamy smell made Drie want to roll in the grass. The daemon of the wastes took in a great breath and recoiled sharply, her curling roots once again thrashing about in response to her disquiet.
She smells of the Mad One! The spirit thundered as the fire crept back into her eyes.
But Nox threw up his hands again, drawing the daemon's attention. The Mad One has coerced many, Earth Mother. Both mortal and daemon alike have felt her power. But she has fallen; the Wallmaker himself tore away her kindred.
You are wrong if you think that I fear the Mad One, Elder Star. She is weak and broken, but she owns the claws belonging to this one's Other. In her hands I see the Doom. The living behemoth of leaves and soil stabbed a finger shaped root at Deirdre, who again reached for a handful of velvet.
Enough talk! I tire of mortals failings. They are young and spoiled and have forgotten the truce. They needlessly send my children to the Dark! If they continue to unbalance the Worlds the Wall will fall and we all will perish.
The elemental turned the full power of her attention again to Deirdre and the ancient's thoughts boiled like dark storm clouds, dripping with menace and warning.
You must make words for our Kindred with the mortals. You must make the Red Ones stop. Some Ancients are not as patient as I; they will not wait for the young ones to come to their senses. If it must, War will be had to save the Otherworld.
With that the Spirit of the Wastes closed her eyes and leaned backwards. With a great shudder, the column of leaves, rock, and soil collapsed into a mound of lifeless mud. In the silence that followed there was nothing but the sound of wind running through the fields of the wastes. Nox appeared to be just as shocked and dismayed by the Ancient's words as was Deirdre.
“Perhaps we should wake up mother and father?” The silver-haired child-woman whispered.