From the bonny bells of heather
They brewed a drink long-syne,
Was sweeter far than honey,
was stronger far than wine.
They brewed it and they drank it,
And lay in a blessed swound
For days and days together
In their dwellings underground.
VI – FLIGHT INTO THE CAVES
Medigas of Florence fled desperately deeper into the Piper’s Cove, ducking and weaving under low ceilings and over rocks. All he could think about was that the bear would be upon him soon to tear him to bits. The sounds of the bear roaring, the clatter of arms and armour, and the shouts of the three grogs, Ugo, Guillaume de Rouen, and Corwynn mac Murchan, were not encouraging;
UGO ‘Boss! If you can hear me, run! UNGHHH! (followed by a clatterring of metal)
GUILLAUME: ’Merde! I’m down! I’m down!’
CORWYNN: ‘Ack! Run for your lives! We’ve got to flee before it devours us!’
Medigas ran on in panic. He ran on past several other cave openings, getting deeper and deeper into the cave system, until all he could hear was his own laboured breathing.
Some time later Medigas forced himself to stop and, when his lungs had calmed down, he listened. He thought he heard bootsteps. He turned to peer up the tunnel as far as his magical torchlight would allow. A echoing call came down the tunnel.
UGO: ‘Ey! It’s me-e, Ugo-o-o. Who’s there-ere? I see the light-ight-ight…’
MEDIGAS: (still fearful) ‘Is the bear with you?’
UGO: ‘No-o-o. It’s gone. Master, I’m coming-ing.’
MEDIGAS: (as Ugo approached from the dark) ‘Are you hurt? Your shoulder…’
UGO: ‘Mmmm, it’s nothing to worry about. The bear pushed me against the wall a few times. It was so strong, and our blows didn’t hurt it. We ran. At least, Corwynn and I ran – I think Guillaume came after us, but I’m not sure. I lost them in the tunnels.’
A new sound came to them from deeper in the cave.
MEDIGAS: ‘Laughter? Do you hear that? It seems to come from up ahead.’
UGO: ‘No, I hear nothing.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Let us investigate. I like not the idea of going back, lest the bear be there. It seems forward is the only way to go.’
Proceeding down the tunnel further, the sound became more clearly that of a group of people conversing and laughing casually.
UGO: ‘It sounds festive, master.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Aye, but who would be so cheerful in a bear cave? Fairy folk of the isle? If so, we must be careful.’
UGO: ‘But I heard those folk were friendly.’
MEDIGAS: ‘They can be, but they can be mischievous too, like tricksters. Their ways are hard to fathom.’
UGO: ‘Ah, well. They won’t trick me, master, worry not. In fact I’ve never been tricked, that I know of.’
The cave descended slightly and then a definite set of steps appeared, carved in the stone floor. Below, the noises were louder and accompanied by clinking noises, as if from cups. A glow could be seen coming from further in the cave, and the shadows of whomever made the noise played on the wall.
UGO: ‘I should go first, master, in case there be tricks or trouble.’
MEDIGAS: ’Very well, but watch your step.
Ugo put his hand on the cave wall to steady himself and then took the first hesitant step down. The moment his foot fell on the first of the carved steps there came a loud ‘GASP!’ sound from below and then all the noise ceased abruptly. The glow at the bottom of the steps disappeared, as if someone had blown out the last candle. Ugo turned to look back at Medigas, who still held his magical torch. The he looked back down the steps and called out;
UGO: ‘Hello-o-o’? We are lost-ost-st.’
He looked back at Medigas, who only shrugged.
UGO: (trying a different tactic) : ‘We are lost in here and if you don’t show yourselves and help us I’m going to rip your damned wings off-ff-ff!!’
A high-pitched twittering laughter drifted up the tunnel in response, accompanied by a single high-pitched voice saying ‘oooOOOOooooh.’
UGO: (unhappily) ‘Master, they mock us…’
VII – CORWYNN AND GUILLAUME
Corwynn was standing alone in a dark, natural tunnel. He had no torch. There was only enough ambient light to make out the black opening at either end of the tunnel against the merely almost-black of the cave walls. He could hear a little clicking from the tunnel behind him, indicating movement. Distantly, he could also hear voices calling to one another, but couldn’t make out the words. Certainly there was no sound to indicate a bear was nearby. He decided to head back, cautiously, and picked the left fork, which somehow seemed less dark. Soon he could see a glow in the tunnel ahead of him, which got brighter and seemed to move around. Then he heard a voice;
GUILLAUME: (calling out) ‘Allo? Allo? Where is you guys?’
CORWYNN: (relieved) ‘Bless you, Guillaume! A friendly voice!’
GUILLAUME: ‘Corwynn? Is that you? Come toward the light, friend!’
CORWYNN: ’I’m coming. Are you alright? Where is the bear?’
GUILLAUME: ‘I don’t know – I think we outran it. My head is still spinning from where the bear knocked me into a rock. Should we go back?’
CORWYNN: ‘Do you hear that? The sound of a harp playing.’
GUILLAUME: ‘No, I can hear only ringing of bells.’
CORWYNN: ‘Let us not go that way – we need to find the others.’
But after casting about in the narrow tunnels and listening more, Corwynn could hear what he took to be strange twittering laughter from one direction and a distinctly bear-like snuffling from another, neither of which appealed to them. They decided to head down the tunnel toward the sound of the harp, after all.
That passage opened into a much larger cavern – so large the light of their single torch couldn’t reach the far wall or the ceiling, and their voices echoed sharply. The faint sound of the harp also echoed through the chamber. It was impossible to pin-point a source; it seemed to mock them. They decided to circumnavigate the chamber by proceeding along one wall, and to keep going until they could find their original entrance, which they now marked with a single arrow to indicate the direction they were going by using the charred end of one of the torches. The floor of the cave descended slightly and the wall curved to the left, and eventually they came to another tunnel. They marked this second entrance with two arrows, and then kept going. The cave wall, such as it was, continued to curve to the left and then rise slightly, and finally they came to a third tunnel mouth. They marked this one with three arrows and proceeded around. The next tunnel entrance they came to was marked with a single arrow.
CORWYNN: ‘A single arrow. We’ve returned to our starting point. This means there are three exits from this cavern.’
GUILLAUME: ‘Er, but I marked the first first arrow by pointing in the direction we walked. This arrow is pointing back at us. It’s pointing the wrong way!’
CORWYNN: ‘Are you sure?’
GUILLAUME: ‘Yes. The others must have been here first and marked this, telling us which way to go.’
CORWYNN: ‘We should go back, then. They must have marked one of the other tunnels.’
They marched back to the last tunnel they had been at, expecting to find their three arrow marks. What they found were three arrows pointing into the tunnel, rather than to the left.’
CORWYNN: ‘Three arrows pointing into the tunnel. They must be using the same code as us. But where are our arrows?’
GUILLAUME: ‘This is confusing. We must have missed a tunnel.’
CORWYNN: ‘Or someone has erased our tunnel mark and made a new one!’
GUILLAUME: ‘Why would someone do that? And who? This harper we seek?’
CORWYNN: ‘I have an idea – I’ll go to the centre of this cavern with one end of the rope while you hold the other. Then I’ll mark an arrow in the sand pointing to where you are. Then you can walk to the left, keeping to the cavern wall. Call out when you reach a new cave mouth. I’ll mark a double arrow, then a triple arrow, and so on until you’ve gone all the way around, which I’ll be able to tell when the rope is aligned with the first arrow again.’
So Corwynn went into what he thought was the centre of the cavern with one end of the rope and Guillaume, holding the other end of the rope, walked to the left, sticking to the wall. At the next cave mouth he came to, he called out:
GUILLAUME: ‘Oh, Corwynn…I do not like this cave!’
CORWYNN: What do you see?’
GUILLAUME: ‘Two arrows pointing to the ground.’
CORWYNN: ‘Okay. Keep going.’
At the next tunnel entrance, Guillaume found there were no markings whatsoever. Guillaume shouted out the results with a few choice swear words in the Normand dialect. At the next tunnel entrance he found a single arrow pointing up. By then he had returned to the start, according to Corwynn’s rope.
CORWYNN: ‘Three exits. I think that one that you now stand at is the way we came in, and that’s the way we should go.’
GUILLAUME: ’Okay, I wait for you, then.
VIII – SPRITES
Ugo, meanwhile, lit a torch and together he and Medigas proceeded cautiously down the steps to where the noise of laughter had come from. At the bottom of the steps a small cavern opened up, and in the centre say a long table piled high with delicious-smelling food. There was not a person to be seen, however. The table looked like it had recently been abandoned. The food lay half-eaten on platters and many of the cups were still full with bright red wine.
UGO: ‘Master, a feast. And not too soon – I’m famished.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Careful, Ugo, this is not meant for us.
UGO: (eyeing the red wine, which he had been craving) ’Oh, but master, the fairies were scared away and it would be a shame for this all to go to waste.’
MEDIGAS: ‘It would not be wise to risk their wrath.’
UGO: ‘But master, they’re only fairies…I will squish them if they try anything.’
MEDIGAS: ‘You recall those tales of sirens, you mentioned? Well, fairies use food the way that sirens use their song – to lure men to a bad end. You brought candle wax for your ears, but did you bring anything to block your sense of taste?’
UGO: (thinking about this) ‘Oh, ahhh…. Maybe the wine, then…?’
MEDIGAS: ‘The wine is surely worse. You must not eat anything now, tempting though it is.’
UGO: (under his breath) ‘Hmmm. I save one for later, then.’
While Medigas looked around the rest of the room, Ugo reached out the plucked an apple from a bowl and shoved in into one of his pouches. There were two other tunnels leading from the room. From one came a breeze, upon which Medigas detected the tang of salt air.
UGO: ‘Salt? You mean it leads to the ocean? But we cannot leave yet without Guillaume and Corwynn, master.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Nor without having found Sir Thomas and his wayward harper. But I will mark this wall for later.’
Medigas cast a quick spontaneous spell to create a mark only he could see. He didn’t want Guillaume and Corwynn to accidentally stumble upon his marker and mistake it for instructions.
Then they decided to head back the way they came.
They climbed the steps and proceeded through the tunnel for a while when a wee cheeping noise reached their ears. Ugo held his torch forward and could see by the glint that something small was moving about on the tunnel floor ahead.
UGO: ‘Master, it’s those damned fairies!’
MEDIGS: ‘Let us ignore them for now, Ugo, and keep going.’
UGO: ‘By maybe I could catch one, master. Here, hold my torch.’
Ugo crept forward and could more clearly see something flopping on the ground ahead. He leapt forward and grabbed at it and there was a loud and high-pitched squeal. Ugo stood up and peered into his hands to see what he had grabbed. It appeared to be a beautiful little woman, no larger than a large dragonfly. She wore an elegant golden gown and pair of wings grew from her back. The wing on the left fluttered madly, but the one on the right hung limp. She wriggled and tried to pry herself from Ugo’s strong grip.
UGO: ’It’s a fairy! Master! I caught one! I got you now you little…’
MEDIGAS: ‘Ugo! Do not hurt her!’
UGO: (slyly) ‘I won’t if she tells us how to get out of here! How do we get out of here, fairy?!’
The fairy looked around desperately while her left wing flapped like a zephyr. Ugo ran back to where Medigas stood, his hand held out proudly for the master to see. Medigas peered at the damaged wing opened his mouth to speak to it, but was uncertain which language would be most appropriate. Ugo reached into his pocket for the apple and pinched off a little piece. He offered it to her, but as she reached out to accept it he jerked his hand back meanly.
UGO: ‘Oh, no you don’t. No apple until you help us get out of here!’ He continued to taunt her by moving the apple closer and then jerking it away again. ‘We want to get out of here! Out! Out! Which way? Thomas! Thomas! We look for T-h-o-m-a-s.’
MEDIGAS: ‘And Rath mac Suibhne. Do you know Rath mac Suibhne?’
At the mention of the harper, her face changed and she emitted some small chirping noises. She pointed at the apple. Medigas nodded to Ugo, who gave her the small piece of apple that he had pinched off. It seemed to improve her mood and the motor function of her wing. When she asked for more, however, Ugo refused.
UGO: (scowling at her) ‘Oh, nononono! Rath mac Suibhne! Tell us where to find him!’
She turned plaintively to Medigas and tried to negotiate with him in her chirping fashion. Medigas broke off another piece of apple and gave it to her. After eating it, she seemed able to move both her wings equally well. Then she pointed up the tunnel, as if to say that they should go that way.
They came to a split in the tunnel and when they got there they paused. Medigas asked her which way to go next. She pointed at the ground.
MEDIGAS: ‘She wants to be put down.’
UGO: ‘Down? No! I’m not letting her go, master!’
She crossed her arms and looked stubbornly at Medigas. Ugo still held her tightly in one hand. With the other, he reached out and pinched the end of one of her wings between his finger and thumb, tugging gently and saying deliberately;
UGO: ‘Rath mac Suibhne! Rath. Mac. Suibhne! Tell us or else!’ He pulled her wing again for emphasis.
At this threat she merely became more agitated and began to chirp faster, higher, and louder until her voice was filling the tunnel. It became almost too much to bear and Ugo was tempted to let go so he could cover his ears. He stopped pulling on her wing, but didn’t let her go. She continued to scream, but then suddenly stopped. She put her little hands on her hips and stared meaningfully at Ugo, then wrinkled her nose at him. Ugo scowled back. Then the sound of many more little high-pitched voices came from up one of the tunnels, as if answering her call. A faint glow seemed to be rising from that direction, too.
UGO: ‘Master, her friends are coming. Good! I would rather fight the fairies than walk around in the darkness for God knows how long and have them laugh at us!’
A cloud of little glowing, butterfly-like figures emerged from one of the tunnels, high up near the roof of the cave, and fluttered toward them.
MEDIGAS: ‘Ugo, do not hurt her. In fact, I think you should let her go.’
UGO: ‘But master, she’s all we’ve got! Surely your magic can protect us?’
The cloud if little fairies came closer still, and when they were almost upon them Ugo lost his nerve and extended his arm toward Medigas.
UGO: ‘Master, you take her!’
Medigas accepted the fairy, and Ugo started waving his torch above his head to fend off the fairies. Medigas let her go immediately and she took flight, joining the others in the cloud. The the entire cloud swung around and started to flutter down one of the tunnels.
UGO: ‘Master, we should follow!’ Ugo started to run after the fairies, but then stopped to make sure Medigas was coming. Medigas was sceptical, feeling it would be wiser to run the other way, but followed the grog all the same.
The two of them ran down the tunnel after the sprites.
IX – THE GOLDEN POOL
The tunnel that Guillaume and Corwynn were following descended sharply, but then gradually levelled out and began to climb again. At the bottom of the curve, however, was a small side tunnel from which a glow of light and the sound of dripping water came. They peered into this side tunnel and found that it ended at a small cavern into which a shaft of light shone. In the centre of the cavern was a small pool of crystal-clear water with a sandy bottom. On the middle of the pool was a small sandy island covered with moss and, glinting in the light, a pile of gold coins!
GUILLAUME: ‘Eh, Corwynn, look at that! Gold! I have never seen so much!’
CORWYNN: ’That’s gold? I’ve never seen any before. I wonder who it belongs to?’
GUILLAUME: ‘Belongs to? Why, it’s lost in this cave. It probably fell down through that hole and has been here so long nobody remembers it.’
CORWYNN: ‘This cavern it tricky, though, and I do not trust it. My father told me that things that look too good to be true probably are.’
GUILLAUME: (poking at the pile with his sword) ‘Eh, no, it seems normal to me. Maybe we only take a little – don’t need it all, eh? That would be greedy.’
Guillaume hopped over to the little island and bent down to take a closer look. He scanned around for any sign of a trap, and even ran his hand through the clear water and smelled it. Then he reached out and grabbed a handful to put it in his pocket. He smiled at Corwynn and opened his mouth to say something reassuring, but all that came out was the ‘quack’ of a duck! Guillaume looked shocked and confused for a moment, then said;
GUILLAUME: ‘Quack! Quack-quack-quack QUACK!’
Guillaume hurredly threw the coins back on the pile, then quacked once quizzically, and a second time despondently. Corwynn shook his head.
CORWYNN: ‘I warned you not to touch it…’
Corwynn reached into his pouch and produced one of the little silver farthings that Sir Gilbert fitz Gospatrick had given him earlier and tossed it on the pile. He was hoping that the sacrifice might help appease whatever had changed Guillaume’s voice.
CORWYNN: ‘I don’t know! We need to find Magister Medigas – he’s the only one who can help you now.’
Guillaume reached down and picked up the little silver bit that Corwynn had tossed down. He offered it back to Corwynn, but the grog refused to take it back, so Guillaume shrugged and placed it in his own pouch.
They returned to the main tunnel and followed it uphill. Guillaume quacked frequently as they went, hoping that his voice would return, but it didn’t. Soon they could see a little glow up ahead – it swelled and lightened the tunnel ahead of them, then subsided. Seconds later, another glow lightened the tunnel and Ugo came running into view, carrying a torch. Guillaume cried out in his excitement at seeing him;
GUILLAUME: ‘QUACK QUACK QUACK!’
Ugo, running after the cloud of fairies, stopped and did a double take. He could see Corwynn and Guillaume standing there, but was uncertain as to the source of the noise he had just heard.
Ugo cried out;
UGO: ‘Fairies! I found the fairies! They’re leading us to Rath mac Suibhne!’ Follow us!
Ugo took off again, followed by Medigas and the two other grogs. Corwynn excitedly tried to relate the story behind the quacking to Medigas as they ran, but before he could finish they burst into a large and well-lit cavern.
The air was fresh and a waterfall spilled gently down one of the walls and collected in a large pool at the bottom. Beams of sunlight shone down from some unseen openings above, and ferns and other small plants grew from the walls of the cave. The little cloud of fairies burst into the cavern from the tunnel and flew upward to swirl around amidst the greenery and flowers. The four companions stood dumb-founded for a moment before the plinking sound of a harp reached their ears.
X- RATH MAC SUIBHNE
At the sound of the harp, Ugo reached into his pocket and brought out the candle he had been carrying. He broke off two bits and stuffed them into his ears, then handed the candle to Corwynn who did the same.
Guillaume quacked in amazement at the size of the cavern.
Ugo, Medigas, and Corwynn made straight for the pool. Guillaume followed, but he peered up at the walls of the covern and noticed several groupings of small, grey-clad, black-haired, men and women sitting around on ledges. Many of these characters seemed preoccupied with various tasks; some seemed to be cleaning small picks and shovels, others were sleeping, one smoked a pipe; but a few watched the four men as they crossed the floor of the cavern to the pool.
Guillaume tapped Medigas on the shoulder and tried to point out the strange people on the ledges, quacking as he did so. Medigas removed his lenses from his eyes and rubbed the condensation off of them, then peered around, but seemed unable to see what Guillaume was pointing to. None of the others could see anything either, and since Guillaume was unable to explain what he was seeing, he gave up and resorted to sullenly watching the strange people while the others inspected the pool. The water in the pool was shallow and crystal clear. Small white fish with beards swam around under the waterfall.
Standing at the pool afforded the four companions a much better opportunity to look around the rest of the cavern. To the left, in a location that had been blocked from their view when they first entered the cavern, a broad beam of light illuminated the floor. Lying in the light, on an old stone bier, was the peaceful figure of a sleeping man. His long golden hair was spread out behind his head and spilled over the side of the bier, reaching almost to the floor. Three small but beautiful maidens combed it out slowly, starting at the scalp and running their combs right to the tips of his hair. With each stroke his hair seemed to grow a little longer. One of the maids looked up at the men and smiled. Medigas guessed that this man was none other than Thomas fitz Gospatrick.
Off to the left of the bier were two small men with straight, dark, hair and clothes made of rough, grey fur. The stood on either side of a large stone vat and stirred its contents with a stout stick.
Perched on a rocky outcrop above the bier was another man, one with wavy dark brown hair. He lounged on what appeared to be a number of colourful cushions and plucked languidly at a golden harp. Beside him was a goblet. Medigas guessed that this was the harper, Rath mac Suibhne. When the harper saw Medigas and the grogs, he stopped playing the harp and sat up. He raised his goblet in a toast, and in a cheerful voice, he said;
GRACE: ‘Helloooo. So nice of you to join us!’
MEDIGAS: (looking around) ‘We are here for Sir Thomas…’
GRACE: ‘Oh, I know that!
MEDIGAS: ’…and unfortunately he’s going to have to come with us.’
GRACE: ‘Oh, I don’t think so. He’s a dreadful bore, but he’ll stay here for a while, yet. You may call me ‘Grace’, by the way.’
Uncertain what to say, Medigas remained silent for the moment.
GRACE: ‘Oh, come now. You’re going to try harder than that, aren’t you? Where’s the sport in giving up?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, as you can probably tell from my accent, I’m not from these lands and I do not know your venerable customs. What sort of arrangements would normally be made for the return of a kidnapped knight?’
GRACE: ‘Oh, a ransom of some sort, naturally. That’s how it works, isn’t it? I’ll do something for you if you’ll do something for me!’
MEDIGAS: ‘And would would this ransom be?’
GRACE: (sighing at having to think of everything himself) ‘Sigh Fine. Well, what have you got to trade?’
Stumped, Medigas remained silent for a moment. He wanted time to think. Grace was impatient, though, and interrupted him.
GRACE: ‘Come on, come on. I haven’t got all DAY, you know!’ He said this in such a way that it was patently obvious that he did have all day. Then, with a smirk, he added ‘Sir Thomas isn’t getting any younger, you know!’
Corwynn glanced over at Sir Thomas. With each comb of his hair, it seemed a little less golden and more grey. Was Sir Thomas aging as they slept. Were they all ageing? He had heard that time passed differently in the realm of the fae.
UGO: (whispering) ‘Master, maybe you need to offer your first born child to the fairy?’
MEDIGAS: (ignorning Ugo and speaking to Grace) ‘By my thinking, you must be an ally of Gille Brigte mac Fergusa, brother to Uchtred mac Fergusa.
GRACE: (leaning forward in surprise) ’Who? Nooooo! Why would you think that?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Because you have taken the son of one of Uchtred’s allies.’
GRACE: ‘Bah! If I let myself be bothered by such trivialities as petty human differences I would never get anything done. No, this man was simply annoying and I took him because it pleased me! And because I could! So there! And now that you are here, you will offer me something for his return, because that is the way it works!!’ With these last words, Grace’s voice grew harsh and deep with challenge.
GRACE: (wagging his finger at Guillaume) ‘What was that? Oh my, you look like a man but quack like a duck! Tut, tut! A little greedy, were we? One shouldn’t touch what doesn’t belong to him! Nobody ate an apple, I hope!’ He looked around at the group. Ugo tried to look innocent.
MEDIGAS: ‘Sadly, I have little to offer you. I can enchant things, though. I could make you something, mmm, magical.’
GRACE: ‘Hmmm. No, I don’t think so. That would take too much time – you’d be an old man by the time you finished! Ha!’
MEDIGAS: (changing tack) ‘Oh! I know. I have a comb that belonged to Sir Thomas. I propose that a neutral party place the comb somewhere, and they you and I each form competing teams to retrieve it. Whoever brings it back first wins.’
GRACE: ‘Well, much as I like a game, I can’t help but wonder what I get out of that.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, it would be highly entertaining…’
GRACE: ‘True, though I’m already entertained. Maybe for my prize I get to keep the quacker here for a year!’ He smiled broadly at Guillaume.
UGO: ‘I think he says ’yes’, master!’
GUILLAUME: ‘QUACK QUACK!’ he said, quickly correcting himself.
MEDIGAS: ‘No, that won’t do.’
CORWYNN: (stepping forward confidently) ‘Well, I’ll challenge your champion to a fight! How about that?’
GRACE: ‘Champion? I don’t have a champion! What do you take me for? Anyway, you didn’t give Mr. Bear much of a challenge, did you! But if you’re up for a fight I’ve got just the thing! There is a certain someone who is rather annoying me and I would like to see him gone from my domain. You could fight him! You could even bring your friends! And if you win, I’ll give you young Sir Thomas, here!’
MEDIGAS: ‘And if we lose?’
In answer to this, Grace merely made a sad face, sighed, and plucked four descending notes on his harp.
MEDIGAS: ‘Tell us more about this person you want gone.’
GRACE: (pointing to a tunnel) ‘You see that tunnel? That leads to my mines, but a smelly old wyrm has moved into them and is now blocking our way into the best pits. My miners…’ he swept his hand around in a broad arc, gesturing to all the little picts that were lounging around on the ledges, ‘…have been put out of work. I would consider it a worthwhile trade if you were to go into that tunnel and chase the nasty old wyrm away! And if you do, I’ll give you this riffraff here.’ He pointed down to where Sir Thomas was having his hair combed.
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, much as the scavenger hunt would have been interesting, I think we are much better suited as a group to chase out your smelly wyrm. We accept!’
GRACE: ‘Excellent. Well. There’s the tunnel that leads to the wyrm. Have at it!’
MEDIGAS: ‘Would you mind if we rested a bit? Two of my companions were somewhat battered by the bear, and I am wearied from casting magic.’
GRACE: ‘Oh, how tiresome it must be to be a human. But certainly you may rest. And my friends here are brewing up some Heather Yill as we speak! Maybe you would like to have a quaff?’
MEDIGAS: ‘And how long would a quaff of heather yill extend our stay, here?’
GRACE: (shrugging) ‘I don’t know – it’s out of my control, you know!’
CORWYNN: (excitedly) ‘Heather Yill! Magister, that’s a most famous drink. They tell tales that an Irish King chased the last of the picts off the cliffs of the cliffs of the mull of Galloway in search of the recipe. Corwynn then related the tale of the disappearance of the recipe for Heather Yill.
After Corwynn told his tale, Ugo was the first to drink a quaff of the yill. One of the picts stirring the pot dipped a chalice into it and drew out a draught. He handed it to Ugo who chased it back. Ugo stood in mute contemplation for a moment, then nodded. ’It’s good!’ he said with a smile.
The others all drank as well. Everyone felt better after having the drink. Their weariness fell away and their wounds seemed to heal. Guillaume seemed to be the one to enjoy it most, but was unable to express how it made him feel. He would later explain that after drinking it, the world appeared in sharper focus to him, but that he perpetually felt like he had a bit of heather stuck in his teeth from the drink and as a result never smiled as much as he used to.
XI- THE WYRM
Some time later Ugo once again led the way down a tunnel. This one supposed led to the wyrm, and stank with the foul smell of decay. They descended at a steady pace, occasionally coming across the bones of sheep, cow, deer, and also once or twice those of a human. The tunnel then ended in a vertical shaft which was about two and a half yards across. A rope bridge once crossed this shaft, leading to another tunnel, but it had been cut or broken in the middle. Looking up, they could see a dim light – the shaft probably broke the surface somewhere. Looking down, there was only darkness. Guillaume dropped a torch down and watched it fall until it plopped into the water which filled the bottom of the well. ‘Quack.’ he said, matter-of-factly. He gestured for Corwynn’s quarter-staff an reached out to hook the other end of the rope bridge. By allowing Ugo to hold Corwynn’s belt, Corwynn as able to reach out and tie the end of the bridge with a piece of their rope. This allowed them to cross the shaft by dangling from the rope.
The tunnel continued farther down for quite some time, at least a mile by Medigas’ estimation. It finally emerged into a funnel-shaped cavern with a central shaft in the ceiling down which dim light came. In the centre of the floor of the cavern was a pool of water, and coiled up in this pool was a huge wyrm with glinting, black scales. A dull rumbling noise seemed to emanate from the snake. Bones were strewn all about the cavern. Ugo backed cautiously away and informed the other of what he had seen.
UGO: ‘The wyrm is there. The fairy said to chase it way. Any ideas, boss?’
Medigas had one, but it was a risky one.