Chorl in the mountain! And not through the Main Gate. There was only one other way in and that was by the flood gate down in the roots of the mountain that had not been opened in an age. How? And why? Wycan saw and groaned aloud.
The barracks passages swarmed with guards in full fighting gear. While some were racing up to man the upper levels, more were streaming down. Keeping close to the wall, Wycan watched and listened, and understood at last: Chorl!
Wycan looked around warily, scanning for signs of deeper shadows moving over the mountain face. “Are we safe now?” he said, as they passed the first rock shelf. “Well, chorl have never come this high.” There’s always a first time, thought Wycan uneasily.
Wait, Ythac had told him. Wait, wait by the fox and I’ll find you. He would wait, all right. So would the fox. But the captain would never find either!
The captain . . . laughed. You youngsters. You know it all. Or . . . you think you do. What have you heard about chorl?” Wycan told him of the tales passed around the dormitory after lights out. “They say chorl overran the mountain, but, well, I see that can’t be true, not with that gate.” “Oh but it is.”
(Wycan) breathed in the smell of rich moist loam. He never wanted to go back up into that mountain, never. In fact— . . . He didn’t have to. Thanks to Ythac, he would make his break that very day—maybe within the hour!
Some way farther down, the track split into two. . . . another, narrower ridge curved off eastwards . . . Where does that lead?” . . . “Nowhere we want to go.” . . . “I don’t understand.” Ythac sighed heavily. “There’s an old forest . . . we do not speak of it. . . . Now come.” Wycan allowed himself to be led on. But glancing back along that trail he couldn’t help but wonder. . . .
A pace or two beyond the gate, Wycan stopped. Before him was blind, black space. To either side, ragged torch flames fluttered in the wind. Behind them, the gate ground shut and its bars clanked into place.
When at last he fell asleep, he dreamed she was smiling down on him—her hair blew freely in the wind, he felt it brush his face—while above her, deep blue sky peeked through a dome of rich green leaves. . . . Bonus Content: Wycan’s Tune
Could that figure on the bed be the dead queen? No, for she was not Cryggmoren. Then who? And why was she so secret? He fell asleep still searching for an answer. Bonus Content: Chapter Illustration
. . . the main tunnel came to a sudden end—not against natural rock . . . but a wall of chiseled stones fit so tightly together there was not a crevice anywhere, not even for a spider. In the middle of that wall was a door sheathed in iron plate with three great hinges on the left side, and three massive bolts on the other rammed deep into its rock frame. Wycan eyed that gate intently. His way out at last?
He remembered now how . . . he’d resolved to leave the mountain and find his folk, or at least, find out what had happened to them. . . . In that moment he resolved to . . . set out on his true quest, which was to find the place where he belonged.
Wycan gazed down at the dagger, at a loss. That Ythac should give his own first knife to him! . . . It was not until much later that it came to him:You surprised us all, Ythac had said, when the contest was over. Yet that knife had been right there in his bag!
(Wycan) put this reed to his lips and blew until his cheeks ached but all that came out was a rush of air. “How? How would you do that?” he called out, quite forgetting to raise his hand.
“(Edsyr and Bomac) want to catch you out in something they can take to Morok. . . . They want you locked away for good. Be careful: as I said, they’ll be watching you.” For a moment, (Ystrid) stayed looking down on him, then, without warning, she bent, kissed his cheek, and hurried out. Dear Readers, my voice is still raspy on account of the smoke from 20 or so wildfires that raged throughout this forested region this past month and which still smoulder in places. I hope that all will be better soon and that the narrations will return to normal, sincerely, GC Bonus item: diagram of Snawbyr interior
. . . Bomac pushed up, and thrusting Wycan down onto the mat stomped hard upon his ribs. There came four short, sharp cracks setting everyone a-gasp. Wycan cried out as pain shot through and dark closed in like a drawstring bag pulled tight.
When at last the guard unlocked the door and let him go, Wycan looked suitably penitent. But inwardly, he was a hawk about to fly! Dear Readers, if you detect a certain rasp in my voice right now it is on account of the 20 or so wildfires that have been raging in this forested region for over 3 weeks and which are still being fought. I hope no less than you that the air will improve soon and that the narrations will return to normal, sincerely, GC
Reaching the cavern entrance, Gyral leaned out, craning up and down the passage. “Wycan? Wycan!” No reply. Gyral frowned. “Now where did he go so fast?” he muttered. Children, Gyral was looking straight at Wycan, standing so close they could have shaken hands, but the man didn’t see him.
Why do folk make their homes in such places, when they could live in comfort and plenty in a comfortable village like ours? I can’t tell you, yet they do. I suppose that home is where you were born and what you’re used to, and where you’re not kept standing on the mat.
The Dunderfosse’s western edge was bounded by a mountain range so high its icy caps were lost in cloud year-round. Gom’s spur led up the grandest peak of all, called Snawbyr Crygg. On gazing up at it you’d certainly be awestruck. You’d never dream, though, as even Gom did not, that it was hollow, and that people dwelt therein. . . .