Friday, November 12, 2004


Day 51

I don't recommend being woken by a giant spider's palps brushing your face - though this particular specimen seemed more curious than malicious, and scurried away when I began to move. And boy did I move! With its long dark shaggy coat, it was probably about as bulky as Hengist, but rather more agile, and it was across the chamber and away into a small tunnel before I'd got my sword clear of its scabbard. The yell I'd emitted woke up Memree and Cleve, so we decided it must be morning, and had a quick, cold breakfast, before continuing forward.

Grishelm Castle was in the next cave along, which was the biggest we'd been in. The roof of the cave had a blue glow to it, probably an old magic like the fire-globes, and there was coarse grass on the ground, and the overgrown ruins of an old town...and skulls, half-covered in soil, with lichen on them.

"What happened here, d'you think?"

I sighed, and pushed at a half-embedded piece of stonework with my foot. "Whatever it was, it was a good few centuries ago - look how deeply imbedded these stones are. A castle, with its own small town around it - Hel, someone must have got annoyed."

"Look, if what we're doing comes down to grave-robbing..." Memree looked very serious.

"I don't think so, my love... it may even help to bring a sort of peace here."

We entered the castle through its main gate, stepping over the remains of a rotted portcullis. The light from above was so like daylight, it seemed strange not to hear birds singing, to feel a morning breeze. Time had mellowed the stonework; in places part of the wall had fallen down, or been pushed.

"What a beautiful place this must have been, once."

"Just a castle", I replied, looking round carefully, my hand on the hilt of my sword. "I've seen better."

And that was then a figure appeared on the stone steps down from the wall, a young woman with curly black hair in gleaming, old-fashioned armour, including a shiny breastplate, sword in hand...the final defender of the castle, a ghost? No, much too solid and real for that. "Today you die, Charol", she shouted. "You and your two accomplices!"

She knew my name? "And you're the guardian of the ancient tombs, I assume - not as green and scaly as I'd expected!"

"I'm here to end your killing days, assassin!" She lunged, and I backed cautiously, and parried.

Now this was strange. "Assassin? The local cobwebs have affected your brain, brass-bra..."

"Cuirass! Call me Cuirass, you cold-hearted killer - let it rattle in your dying throat!" She was good - I ducked away from a fast-sweeping blade.

"Well if you don't like me, come right out and say it", I replied. "Has someone hired you to kill me, is that it?"

"I'm protecting that gentle healer Rosella Atzmon from your hired blade, you murderer", she answered, and our swords clashed full-on, with sparks and general clatter.

Now this was a development. "Atzmon? What lies has that she-devil been telling you, Tin-Top?"

"She paused, sword at the ready. "No lies - but I'm her protector, and all who seek her harm must die", she shouted, "Starting with you!" And with her free hand she swung, catching me clean on the chin and knocking me back, nearly making me fall.

"But... why are you here in Grishelm, Sera?" Keeping her talking seemed like a good idea, while the buzzing in my ears gently subsided. The point of my sword wobbled a bit, I wasn't ready to defend quite yet.

"Grishelm?" She looked about, surprised. "But this is a ruin... I know Grishelm, it's a fine town, I have friends there..." She paused. "The shape is familiar, of the castle and the cave... but this place has been abandoned and rotting... for centuries..."

Her hesitation was brief, however - too brief, and with an angry shriek she lunged at me, I tried to dodge, but her blade sliced down into my shoulder. I went down on my knees, dropped my sword, and she raised hers - but Memree ran forward, and dropped beside me.

"No! Don't hurt her - please!"

"She must die", Cuirass said, her sword raised over her head. I might have been able to dodge her first blow, but I was in no condition to to dodge a second. I mumbled something, telling Memree to run...hopefully Cleve, though no great swordsman, would be able to cover their retreat...

"Why?" Memree asked, tearfully. "Has she done you any harm?"

"She can't hurt Lady Rosella now", Cuirass said to herself. "You must..." she stopped for a moment, and then continued. "You must...look after her, and tell her never to threaten the lady again..."

I think I lost consciousness for a little while; Memree has managed to stop the bleeding, and bandaged me, luckily it's not my sword or pen arm that's been damaged. Apparently Cuirass mounted some sort of huge bird and flew off, back to "Lady Rosella" Atzmon, who isn't going to be pleased that I am not dead yet, if I'm any judge of character.

But I really can't write any more today. Actually Memree has been doing most of the actual pen-to-paper stuff, that's alright isn't it? As long as I dictate it...

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