Thus begins In Which, Chapter 4 - Black Stone
The guard yawned, waved through the merchantâ€™s cart, and turned towards the next traveler. He didnâ€™t entirely look up â€“ instead, he just glanced over and pulled out his board, unrolling a parchment and tapping the quill against it. The city of Eagle Lake required all gate guards to be literate, in order to keep proper records of who was entering the city, but he didnâ€™t mind. At least it was a warm day â€“ the height of summer, and even in the north the grass was green and the trees were flowering. â€œWelcome to Eagle Lake. Name?â€
â€œI am Gwydion of the Grey, Huntmaster of the Silver Court. And you are?â€
The guard looked up from his writing. The man standing before him was over six feet tall, clad from head to toe in a green cloak that brushed the ground and was hanging around his shoulders, the hood up despite the heat. Dark leather completed the ensemble, looking spotless â€“ although he must have been on the road for some time. On his back, a seven-foot spear, the colour of stone, with a golden tip, hung in a strap. He was not wearing a pack. The guard blinked. â€œUm. Seargent Sylis Juron.â€
â€œA pleasure, Seargent Juron.â€ Gwydion bowed.
Juron tried to pull the questionnaire back on track. â€œUh, reason for coming to Eagle Lake?â€
Juron nodded. This was familiar ground. â€œJust need to warn you, thereâ€™s no hunting the local wolves. The forest gods protect them.â€
â€œThank you for the warning. I will not.â€
â€œNo problem.â€ Juron made a quick note on the parchment. â€œYouâ€™ll have to peace bond a cover on your spear before coming in.â€
â€œThat wonâ€™t be necessary.â€ Gwydion bowed solemnly. â€œI give you my word that I will not harm any citizen of this town.â€
â€œWellâ€¦uhâ€¦you still have to peace bond it.â€ Juron smiled nervously.
â€œAre you doubting my word?â€ Gwydionâ€™s voice went dark, and he took a menacing step forwards. The other guard looked over in surprise, and Juron found himself backing against the wall. Suddenly, this eccentric traveler seemed much more menacing. â€œI have killed men for such an insult.â€
â€œUhâ€¦ no! No! Itâ€™s just the law! I donâ€™tâ€¦ I canâ€™tâ€¦â€
â€œAh.â€ Gwydionâ€™s expression cleared, and he bowed again. â€œMy apologies. Of course, being a stranger in a human town, my word cannot be known to be good.â€ He sighed heavily. â€œI suppose that you have such a covering.â€
â€œWe doâ€¦â€ Nervously, Juron gestured to the other guardsman, who vanished into the guardhouse in search of a cover. â€œI see that your word is very important to you, my lord.â€
â€œI swore an oath to never speak falsehood.â€ The words were simple, and Juron nodded.
â€œI see. I didnâ€™t mean to insult that. Itâ€™s justâ€¦â€
â€œI understand. Rules are important. They divide Creation from chaos.â€ The guard returned, and Gwydion took the covering, expertly twisting it around his spearâ€™s head.
â€œIf I might askâ€¦â€ Juron was surprised at his own boldness. â€œThat speartip. Is it gold?â€
â€œIt is forged from an eagleâ€™s cry, mixed with the blood of a hunting lion and tempered in steel.â€ Gwydion tied off the covering. â€œI have owned it for my entire existence.â€
â€œI see. Well. Welcome to Eagle Lake.â€ Smiling with more confidence than he felt, Juron stepped aside to let the visitor pass easily.
â€œThank you. Is there an inn you recommend?â€
â€œThe Black Beast is a good one, sir.â€
â€œHmm. Fitting.â€ Gwydion nodded again.
â€œIf I might ask, sir â€“ and this is strictly for personal interest â€“ what are you hunting?â€
â€œA monster.â€ With that cryptic remark, Gwydion the Grey swept into the city. Juron looked after him, and then turned to his partner.
â€œThere was something odd about that guy, Haman.â€
â€œProbably a god-blood or something.â€ Haman shrugged, and the two returned to their duties.
It was close to three hours later, near the end of their shifts, when the wagon rolled up. Two people sat on it; a young woman and a heavily shrouded figure, covered head to toe in deep blue fabric. Juron raised an eyebrow. â€œNames?â€
The woman curtsied. â€œI am Whispered Melody, and my master is the sorcerer Sky Dragon. We have come to observe the Black Granite caves that Eagle Lake is famed for.â€ She smiled brightly.
â€œAh. Well.â€ Juron glanced at the sorcerer out of the corner of his eyes, and bowed respectfully. â€œVery good. Welcome to Eagle Lake. Youâ€™ll want to speak with the priesthood about passes to the caves; you know that most of them cannot be reached.â€
â€œOh, we know. But my master is studying certain arts.â€ That was as much of an explanation as Juron required, and he quickly waved the cart through.
Rolling into the city streets, the hooded figure muttered with amusement. â€œSky Dragon?â€
â€œIt saves time.â€ Serafin grinned impishly beneath her borrowed exterior as she looked over at her husband; her form was one she had constructed for her own amusement, and she found it useful for the moment. He, by contrast, would seem a god to any mortal of Creation who saw him as he truly was, hence the simple disguise. â€œI can smell Gidâ€™s passage. Letâ€™s go see what heâ€™s found out for us.â€