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Cold Iron Burns (The Wild Man Season 2)

Once Upon a Time, Eilhu awoke from a fractious, confusing dream with perspiration beading in the hairs on his chest, breathing hard like he was in battle. His grief was a suckling infant with a voracious appetite. It fed until his bones were hollow but when he awoke, there was the hope within him of an accord being reached. He got up from the bed, went to the bowl of water and splashed water onto his face, snorted a little of it into his nostrils and looked out onto the courtyard.

It had been his home but the efforts to renew his connection felt forced and not by his own hand.

He recalled the golden pond and the shimmer of light on water was there whenever he closed his eyes.

The cerulean blue of Mirabelle’s eyes was there too, a splinter in his mind which hurt to contemplate. Eilhu’s palms hurt and when he opened his eyes, he saw scarlet crescents where he had clenched his hands so hard it caused him injury. He flexed his fingers and inhaled through his nose in a slow hiss.

Paul came to him after receiving petitions and found him in bed, his knees brought up to his chest and golden hair in a curtain falling over his face, mute with agony. He sat down with a sigh and waited for his nephew to acknowledge him.

‘It pains me to see you like this.’ He said.

Eilhu peered through the curtain of hair at him.

‘My pain is my own.’ Eilhu said.

Paul nodded in understanding, seeing the faint glimmer of connection renewed between them.

‘ If you wanted to talk, I would listen.’

Eilhu sat up, slow and cautious as a foal testing its limbs, brushed his hair from his eyes.

‘What does talking do? A man is his actions, not his words.‘ he said.

Eilhu’s lips drew back over his teeth and the beard around his mouth was damp as he got up from the bed.

‘I trust you will retire to the garden?’ Paul said.

Eilhu went over to the garden.

‘You misunderstand me, uncle.’ He said.

Paul’s heart danced with a small hope of reconciliation between him. He treasured his nephew through to his bones and late at night, he would whisper to the darkness of his hopes for Eilhu to succeed him. Eilhu turned his head and smiled at him.

‘I seek revenge, and I believe you hold the means to it.’

Paul swallowed, prickling with a caution which pooled in the wounds he carried, made them throb and sing as he debated whether to risk candour with his nephew.

He gave a small nod and Eilhu raised his eyes.

‘He raised me uncle, I can feel his presence.’ He said.

Paul folded his hands in his lap and pursed his lips.

‘He is here, bound in cold iron until I decide what to do with him.’

Eilhu came to his uncle and dropped to his knees, eyes bulging in their sockets as he took his uncle’s hands in his.

Paul sought to stuff down the flames of delight at such a turn in events. Their reunion had been stilted and disconnected, but now the parts of his soul which were a shrine to the boy glowed with a renewed faith.

‘I want to see him.’ He said.

Paul bit the inside of his cheek and squeezed his nephew’s hands. Eilhu’s face was tight with need as they gazed at one another. A revelation came to Paul’s lips, a confession which would change everything between and around them but he decided against it.

‘Yes, it is important for you to see him. The queen’s murder was by his hand.’ Paul said.

Eilhu swallowed and lowered his chin. Fat tears welled up and trickled down, dissolving into his beard.

‘Then I must see him. If only to know.’ He said.

Paul steeled himself for disappointment but this victory, silent and ethereal unmanned him. He asked Eilhu if he wished to see him straight away but Eilhu shook his head.

‘I must prepare myself. It’s not an easy thing to consider.’ Eilhu said.

Paul let go of Eilhu’s hands and placed his right hand on his shoulder.

‘Would you like me to come with you?’ he said.

Eilhu shook his head and rested his hand atop his uncle’s and gazed into his eyes with such depth of feeling it was like staring into the sun.

Paul got to his feet and smiled down at Eilhu.

‘I will show you his cell then leave you to it.’ He said.

He would not, he decided, but Eilhu deserved closure and Paul knew opening the wrong door would undo everything.

What haunted him afterwards were the consequences of opening the right door.

2.

Paul walked with Eilhu, down through the winding tunnels into the bowels of the castle. Eilhu wrinkled his nose with distaste at the fetid, warm stench which clung to each stone like a jealous lover as they walked but kept his face still.

‘Why does it stink so much down here?’ Eilhu said.

Paul coughed into his fist and nodded before he spoke.

‘Cold iron burns.’  He said.

Eilhu grimaced and swallowed, tasted something dank and ugly in the air down here. They stopped outside a cell door and Paul unsheathed a dagger from his belt, flipped it over with a smooth, practiced flick of his wrist and offered it to Eilhu.

Paul’s eyes sparked in the gloom.

Eilhu took the dagger, held it up to the light and inspected the blade. The edges  gleamed, forged from good steel and cold iron.  He hid his feelings and gave a small nod.

Paul opened the door and stepped to one aside.

Eilhu took a deep breath and walked in as the door closed behind him.

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The Blind Appetites of Plants (The Wild Man, Season 2)

Once Upon a Time, Mirabelle awoke to the echoes of prayers reverberating around the chamber, pulled from a lustful, twisting dream like a fish from water. The air shimmered with the heat and she reached for the wide wooden bowl of water, washing away the grit from her eyes. Her travelling clothes were too thick for the climate, and she had a white robe and a Shayla, a headscarf which she put on with care, recalling how Asra wore hers. She walked around the room, marvelling at the woven tapestries, the furred textures and  colours were sensuous enough to take her breath away. Banners and tapestries at home were martial celebrations, fallen enemies and lauded victories in colours of blood and soil. The Caliphate was a place where sense and spirit were indivisible, knowledge seen as a weapon to equal the sharpest spear. Mirabelle was here on business, but the atmosphere had seeped beneath her skin.

Eilhu would love this place. The thought was bittersweet and she pressed her palm against her collarbone, fighting the ache of his absence.

‘Good morning, your highness.’

Asra stood in the doorway, without a Shayla but wearing a red loose gown which had the liquid sheen of silk, stressing the lean length of her physique as she smiled at Mirabelle.

‘Please, I am Mirabelle.’ She said.

Asra’s smile widened as she rolled her eyes, gestured towards Mirabelle with her tattooed fingers.

‘Mirabelle.’ She said.

Mirabelle’s nascent mood dived downwards and she recalled her father, both in life and death.

‘I owe you an explanation.’ She said.

Asra offered her hand, her dark eyes weighted with expectation and curiosity.

‘Over breakfast, then?’ she said.

Mirabelle took her arm and they went down to eat in the garden.

They took the long route through the qusur, a series of tunnels which ran through the reservoir. Mirabelle took it all in with awe as Asra showed her the gardens, but stopped at a corner kept apart by a large wall and a spiked metal gate with a large, ornate lock set into the centre. The change in temperature made Mirabelle shiver, but it was a pleasurable sensation to wander through the cool darkness.

‘I expected to meet the Caliph.’ Mirabelle said.

Asra nodded as she retrieved a key with a slow flick of her wrist and turned it in the lock.

‘All in good time, Sir Carrey sent word of what you needed and it is something I can provide.’ She said.

Mirabelle enjoyed the low purr of Asra’s voice, cultured and erudite with a note of dark power which resonated in the hollows of her bones. She fought the tender sparks of nerves which flew up within her.

‘You’re more informed than I.’ Mirabelle said.

Asra pushed open the gate and waved Mirabelle through.

‘You wish to know the face of your enemy.’ She said.

Mirabelle gasped at the variety and tumescence of the plant life.

Thick, purple vines with swollen berries dripping white, pearlescent liquid.

A horned bush which undulated in patterns of exploration, a sinuous, blind dance which unnerved and intrigued Mirabelle.

A tall bank of yellow flowers, which hummed, the pressure and volume pooling in Mirabelle’s sinuses until she swayed on her feet.

Asra put a hand on her shoulder and drew her backwards, which made the effect of the plants lessen until it became a curiosity.

‘What are those?’ Mirabelle said.

Asra took her arm and led her from the garden.

‘As an exercise, ask yourself the question and we can discuss your answers.’ Asra said.

Mirabelle frowned with polite distaste but Asra chuckled.

‘I offer knowledge but you must earn it.’

Mirabelle turned and faced Asra.

‘I’ve had to trick the people I love into believing me dead, Lady Asra, the least you can do is answer a straight question.’ She said.

Asra locked the gate and appraised Mirabelle with care.

‘You face an enemy who has feasted on the bones of Gods. Some idiot summoned it.’ She said.

Mirabelle paled and sucked the cool air into her nostrils, the hiss of a candle flame extinguished in a single deft pinch.

‘They murdered my father.’ she said.

Asra bowed her head.

‘No, I meant an idiot in they have unleashed something they cannot hope to control.’  Asra said.

Mirabelle thought of Carrey, Eilhu, her father. The people who loved her.

‘What does the garden have to do with it?’

Asra shook her head.

‘Ask yourself and answer it as we break our fast.’ She said.

They feasted on dates as sweet as stolen kisses, milk as thick and rich as a lover’s thigh. Asra asked Mirabelle for her answer.

‘They’re plants.’ Mirabelle said.

Asra nodded in agreement.

‘What does a plant want to do?’ she said.

‘Feed and grow.’ Mirabelle said.

Asra clapped her hands together.

‘Does it know reason?’ she said.

Mirabelle shook her head.

‘Then it becomes a matter as simple as black and white. What are you to do?’ she said.

Mirabelle swallowed, recalling the agonies she faced at the hands of this unknown antagonist.

‘Find out what it takes to kill it.’ Mirabelle said.

Asra smiled, as cold a gesture as a knife drawn across a throat.

‘I like you.’ Asra said.

(The Wild Man – Omnibus from the beginning. Season 2 is https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/11/the-wild-man-season-2-omnibus-2/.

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New Kingdoms (The Wild Man, Season 2)

Once Upon a Time, Carrey sat with Mirabelle, two people sharing secrets which had cast the kingdom into a fragile accord. One of those secrets was Mirabelle, murdered by a maddened servant.

 

There were others, but some of them were unknown even to them.

 

‘This is your idea?’ she said.

 

Carrey rubbed his temples and inhaled as they sat in the chambers assigned for the dead queen. He had kept her hidden, even from his wife and children, let alone the court. Mirabelle noted the flecks of silver in his beard, a few weeks of rule aging him more than a life of battle and service. She wondered if she bore such ravages, and if Eilhu would notice them.

 

If.  She prepared herself for the possibility although it stung like a cut in the roof of her mouth. Nobility was preparation and Mirabelle took more from her father than his eyes or the dimples in her cheeks.

 

‘I cannot afford to spend effort pretending you’re dead when discovery is an unguarded glance away.’ he said.

 

She grimaced and looked about her.

 

‘Well, I’ve left once, one more journey won’t hurt, will it?’ she said.

 

Carrey picked up his goblet and took a deep draught before he set it down.

 

‘You’ve not asked where I am sending you.’ he said.

 

Mirabelle raised her eyebrows, her heartbeat gaining pace as she appraised Carrey.

 

2.

 

She travelled alone, dressed in the robes of an apothecary with letters of introduction folded into small pockets on her person. Her hair was dark with oil, worn away from her face in a long braid which fell down between her shoulder blades. It had been three days ride from the castle, escorted through a side gate just before dawn with Carrey accompanying her.

 

‘If he returns, will you send word?’ she said.

 

He took her hands in his, and tilted his head, smiling at her with a fragile warmth.

 

‘I will come find you myself, your highness.’ he said.

 

She blinked away tears but held her head up and met his gaze.

 

‘See you do, Carrey. It is my command.’ she said.

 

His smile wavered and he bowed from the waist, his eyes never leaving hers. They glinted with the deep fire of honour and she knew he would keep his word.

 

Three days of riding took her to the port. She handed over one of her letters to Boyle, a captain who ran regular sorties across the oceans. He had all his own teeth, and a nose for intrigue but the mention of Carrey’s name made him soften and he bowed to her once he had read the letter. She handed him a doubloon for his trouble and he offered the use of his cabin.

 

She accepted. He led her below decks and she thanked him.

 

She sat down on the hard, narrow bed and wept herself to sleep.

 

3.

 

The air shimmered with heat, lending it a brutal weight as Mirabelle looked over the water, saw the tall, winding structures of the city and heard the heartfelt call to prayer. She had seen emissaries from here, their dusky skins and dark eyes, the habits of praying several times a day and the lists of admonitions their god gave them.

 

Boyle coughed to announce his presence and she glanced over her shoulder.

 

‘Your first time?’ he said.

 

She managed to nod but nothing more. The sight of the city had robbed her of speech.

 

A small group of soldiers met her, swathed in white robes with strange curved swords hung from their waists and wrappings around their heads to ward off the worst of the sun. They were tall and broad, stood without wavering in the oppressive heat of the day.

 

When the woman stepped forwards, Mirabelle grinned. Large brown eyes, with a silk headscarf and robes, all in a deep, regal scarlet. Brown-red patterns of beautiful intricacy snaked down the backs of her hands. She had a pair of the curved swords, worn either side with jewelled hilts which caught the sun in flashes which made Mirabelle wince. The woman brought her hand to her forehead and smiled, showing white even teeth.

 

‘Your highness, welcome to the Caliphate.’ she said.

 

Mirabelle curtseyed.

 

‘I do not have the honour of your acquaintance.’ she said.

 

The woman smiled and shook her head.

 

‘Allah created us as equals, but I have the advantage of birth and position.’ she said.

 

She extended her hand.

 

‘Your highness, it is a pleasure to meet you.’ she said.

 

Mirabelle asked her name. The woman blushed and curtseyed.

 

‘I am Asra. I understand you need my father’s help.’ she said.

 

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The Wild Man Season 2 Omnibus

https://mbblissett.com/2017/07/27/the-wild-man-season-2-omnibus/

https://mbblissett.com/2017/07/29/they-must-be-called-the-wild-man-season-2/

https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/02/a-claim-is-made-the-wild-man-season-2/

https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/03/to-fear-the-reasons-the-wild-man-season-2/

https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/04/a-knock-at-the-door-the-wild-man-season-2/

https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/06/a-messenger-the-wild-man-season-2/

https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/09/one-of-those-days-the-wild-man-season-2/

https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/10/in-the-garden-the-wild-man-season-2/

https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/11/thought-and-taste-an-interlude-the-wild-man-season-2/

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Thought and Taste: An Interlude (The Wild Man, Season 2)

Once Upon a Time, The Wild Man sat in his cell, surrounded by cold iron, which burned his skin and caused agony at the slightest contact. His mind touched on the infinite, an evolving structure like a plant or a symphony, capable of experiencing memories as though he were present, experiencing every sensation again and again. Such a scale was not the gift you would imagine, but he had made the best of it. We cannot know the infinite, so let us refuse to fail and watch him awhile. He refused food and water, and despite the threat of torture, his encounters with Paul were polite, chill affairs which ended with Paul leaving the cell in thwarted silence. The air was dry and cool here, and each breath brought knowledge of his surroundings to him.

He tasted the thwarted ambition of Paul, bonded to injuries which roared within him at such a temperature it inspired pity within The Wild Man.

Pity and fear.

It reminded him of a broth, too much salt and not enough meat to give nourishment. Each swallow tasted of bile and he was grateful when Paul passed by.

He caught the warm, fresh scent of the servants and guards above him, heard their footsteps as the patter of rain through spring foliage and sipped from the goblet of human activity to quench his eternal thirst for connection. It did not feed him but The Wild Man knew the truth of a place or a person through his senses.

A banquet of tiredness, exhaustion, love, hate, fear and indifference.

Eilhu was here. His scent allowed The Wild Man to taste his grief and it was bitter, raw on his tongue like the meat of something which fed on poison. The Wild Man wanted to spit the taste from his mouth but he knew there was power in fluid. Blood, saliva and semen. He sought to reach Eilhu but the cold iron seethed at his attempt, sent the single, hopeful thought dashing to the ground like a bird with an arrow through its breast.

The Wild Man knew there were other forces here with him. They prickled with hatred and pain, a million nerves stretched and strained, played like a cacophonous orchestra to an audience they hated. Within the pain and hatred was a power to rend earth and sky, called from places no man reached without paying a terrible price for the journey, let alone the destination. It knew he was there, and it seethed to touch him. It offered the pleasure of power, but the gift was an exchange which would see him trade one cage for another.

He made his cell a home, a place to rest and observe. The Wild Man refused to gnash and wail in his bonds, he offered no plea or excuse for his actions. He was.

Instead, he waited and thought. A single seed taking root in inhospitable soil and thriving without sustenance.

All was as it should be, and judging by the screams from the adjoining cell, another fate altered and set on a different course. The Wild Man could touch the infinite, but never predict it. He read the signs available and where the portents were uncommon and vicious in their turns of fortune. He saw ends and beginnings in everything, apart but defined by the surrounding reality.

2.

Darkness. Something gave a second breath, warm and fetid like an interred grave. Eyes which would never see the light, blinking and within the riot of new anatomies, poisonous organs bloomed and swelled, tasting and raping the air around them as it adjusted to the reconfigured limbs. It was a man once but now, shat from darkness into darkness, it adjusted itself and cried out in a terrible joy. It was appetite taken beyond limits, loyal beyond death and it represented a new front in a terrible, ancient war fought across millennia. The appetites of gods and monsters slaked on the flesh and fortune of men.

It was a weapon in search of a war.

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One of Those Days (The Wild Man, Season 2)

Once Upon a Time, a noble stood before the gathered court, his face pinched with grief and duty. Carrey spoke the words, tripping over them like gnarled, obstructive roots in a forest path.  Each glance around the court sent fresh waves of distaste over him until he could not stand to address them any longer.

Mirabelle had succumbed to her wounds, but she dispatched her assassin before dying. Carrey confirmed the identity of the assassin but kept the notion of the arrow from general knowledge, an exercise in statecraft which caused him tremendous pain to apply to the situation. An experienced apothecary driven insane by his studies, and the guards sworn to dutiful silence made things simple. Carrey served as Regent until an heir appeared. He stood and looked around the court, repeated words which could not express the tremendous depth of loss. One tragedy was enough to lay a man low, a second was a death blow to the hopes and dreams of the kingdom.

Carrey stepped down from the throne and waved off the good intentions, smiling and nodding as he left. He held himself apart until he walked down the corridor, wreathed in shadow. He wiped his perspiring face with his hand, leaned against the wall and sighed.

Statecraft was a hard burden to bear. Carrey knew this was service, albeit raised to a higher standard, but what he had not accounted for was the ambient pressure of expectation, the pleading stares of everyone who looked to him for solace or vengeance. He allowed himself the moment of weakness, then stood up, shoulders back and chest out before continuing down the corridor.

He entered the meeting room, looking at the diminished privy council. Henry was dead, Peter was dead and now Mirabelle.

Carrey sighed at the turn of events. He walked around, stopping at his usual seat before realising his mistake and sitting at the head of the table.

Wilson, the Captain of the Guard came in, his face pensive and manner subdued.

‘My regent, the messenger has returned.’ He said.

Carrey raised his eyebrow and poured a cup of wine from the flagon on the table.

‘Send them to my chambers, ensure they are undisturbed.’ He said.

Wilson nodded and stepped out of the room.  Carrey sat in the cool silence and sipped his wine. He recalled Ernst’s opinion and shuddered at its truth. Once the cup was empty, he waited for the privy meeting to begin.

After an hour of treasury reports, grain and feed store accounts, hospitality bills for the Golden Apple Tourney and petitions, Carrey came to know the tense discomfort of leadership as a tight band sinking into his temples. His own lands were being stewarded by his wife and children, but his responsibility to them pulled at his insides. He listened and nodded in the right places then allowed the council their leave. He would read petitions for a new apothecary, having sent word to the Grand Library for a replacement..

He enjoyed the cool silence of the room before proceeding to his chamber to receive the messenger.

2.

She sat on the couch, dishevelled and exhausted from a hard ride.

‘How’s ruling going?’ Mirabelle said.

Carrey grimaced and shook his head.

‘You tell me, your highness.’ He said.

Her auburn hair hung from the right side of her head in a loose braid, there were smears of dust on the bridge of her nose and across her chin and she had bound her chest with bandages to diminish her build. The clothes she wore were a man’s tunic and leggings and a battered cap sat on the floor next to her.

‘I delivered the message.’ She said.

Her eyes shone with tears as she stroked the braid for blind reassurance.

‘Did you see him?’ Carrey said.

Mirabelle placed her hand over her heart and raised her chin to look at Carrey with a wounded pride.

‘Every day in here, but no, I did not.’ She said.

Carrey sighed and sat down. His desire to protect their conceit had meant he had to get his own wine.

‘I trust the funeral plans are in hand.’ He said.

She grimaced and nodded in dull agreement.

‘Is it a funeral if the deceased, isn’t?’ she said.

Carrey frowned and shook his head.

‘I understand what we hope to gain from this, but have you considered Eilhu’s feelings?’ he said.

Mirabelle pursed her lips, unable to meet his gaze.

‘All the time, but I want him back safe, without fear or guilt dogging his steps, Carrey.’ She said.

Carrey trembled with concern. Eilhu had been an odd addition to the life of the court, a stray seed blown from afar to set roots, but endeared himself through deed over word. If Mirabelle had cause to wound him, then it was for the greater good.

‘Enough to let your people believe you dead?’ Carrey said.

Mirabelle sat up and wiped her face.

‘We don’t know who haunts our steps, Carrey.’ She said.

Carrey sighed and clenched his fists.

‘We know what, though. We learned it when Henry came and tried to murder you.’ He said.

The Dust. Carrey’s need for an apothecary was immediate and genuine but he had asked the Great Library for more lore on them as she had requested.

‘I’ve tortured him with this action, I know, but what else am I to do? There’s no blade which can swipe at the unseen.’ She said.

There is, Carrey thought, and you wielded it against him.. He knew the burdens she carried, having begun the pretence of ruling in her eternal absence.

‘I will serve, and rule in your stead, but I reserve the right to challenge you.’ He said.

Mirabelle picked up her hat, turned it in her hands for reassurance and sighed beneath the weight of her burden.

‘I wouldn’t have it any other way.’ She said.

She winced as she got to her feet. The wounds were superficial but their sting remained despite the poultices and potions.

‘Keep me close, Carrey. I want to explain to him why I have done this.’ She said.

She looked regal in her rough travelling clothes but her sadness, common and deep as bone, bore upon her like a sickness.

They embraced and Mirabelle left the chamber, taking the corridor through to the chambers set aside for her, guarded by Carrey’s men.

Carrey stood there, head throbbing with the details of their plan, each stage capable of inflicting great ruin upon them all, and called for a servant to bring him wine.

 

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To Fear The Reasons (The Wild Man, Season 2)

Carrey and Ernst drew apart and faced each other. Ernst’s eyes were dark with caution, his hand resting on the hilt of the knife on his hip as he snorted through his nose. Carrey had his hands up, palms outwards as he met Ernst’s gaze. The cut on his cheek bled, but he ignored it.

 

Both of the men recognised a capable opponent.

 

The door to the inn opened and a round-shouldered man, with limp hair and a bald spot on his crown sloped out, buckling his sword belt around his ample waist. His eyes were unfocused and his broken smile suggested violence.

 

Ernst sighed and gestured in the man’s direction.

 

‘Shall we do this over a drink?’ he said.

 

Carrey lowered his hands and smirked.

 

‘Good idea.’ he said.

 

The man walked past them, slurring and staggering as he called for his horse.

 

Carrey paid for the first round as they took a table in the darkest corner of the inn.

 

‘What’s your interest?’ Ernst said

 

Carrey sipped from the tankard and set it down, ran the tip of his tongue over his lips before he spoke.

 

‘A hunter came through these woods. Golden hair. Have you seen him?’

 

Ernst laughed and shook his head.

 

‘I won’t be specific.’ he said.

 

Carrey pressed his teeth together and scratched his chin.

 

‘My queen sent me out to find him.’ he said.

 

Ernst drained the contents of his horn and belched.

 

‘Both of us had errands.’ he said

 

Ernst’s voice had dropped in volume. Carrey leaned forwards to listen.

 

‘I completed mine.’ Ernst said.

 

Carrey furrowed his forehead, swallowed as he thought of further questions to ask the hunter.

 

‘He is important to the queen.’ Carrey said.

 

Ernst snorted and took another swallow of ale.

 

‘He’s important to the regent.’ he said.

 

Carrey surged with frustration, coughing against the acrid aftertaste of the ale as he clasped his hands together.

 

‘And this thing you’ve clapped in cold iron?’ he said.

 

Ernst scratched his beard and whistled under his breath.

 

‘I follow orders, same as you.’ Ernst said.

 

Carrey got to his feet and tossed another coin onto the table. He sighed and gazed at the man sat across from him.

 

‘I will follow mine. I hope it doesn’t make us at cross purposes.’ Carrey said.

 

Ernst cackled and raised his horn in farewell.

 

‘I look forward to seeing you again, my friend.’

 

Carrey heard the word ‘friend’ but he was uncertain if it was a threat or a mutual recognition. The customers of the inn carried on but Carrey left, stiff and bristling with tension as Ernst finished his ale.

 

Ernst waited until Carrey had saddled his horse and was about to depart before he darted outside.

 

‘I would recommend sending an envoy.’ he said.

 

Carrey gripped the reins of his horse and stared at Ernst. He gave a terse nod and struck his heels against the flanks of his horse, riding out at an urgent pace to pass on the news.

 

He rode without stopping until he was at the castle gates. Eilhu had not returned, and he steeled himself to pass on his information to Mirabelle.

 

Carrey hoped she took after her father.

 

3.

 

Cold iron burned on contact. The stench of burning hair hung in the air and concentric scars littered his thick forearms as proof of his efforts. He did not cry out, suppressing his cries by lowering his chin to his chest and gritting his teeth.

 

He slept often. Dreams were a place of great power but here he met impenetrable, cold darkness and a paralysis which forced him awake. They had learned from the lesson of his escape but he had never meant harm to people.

 

The Wild Man knew himself and he sought it in others. Eilhu burned with the power and he saw glimpses of it in the surrounding people.

 

The man who came to his cell suffered from a deficit of it. He exuded black waves of freezing, coruscating energy with each heartbeat and sat there, watching The Wild Man and asking questions.

 

Today had been different. The Wild Man sensed a familiar presence, just beyond the reach of his senses and it gave him hope. A familial reunion had been on the cards, something to encourage once Eilhu had addressed his inner conflicts, but this was different.

 

The Wild Man was not alone. There were forces abroad which he feared, even those consigned to stories and some of them had not gone without a fight. They waited, much as he did.

 

Someone had called them here and he feared the reasons.

 

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