In the middle of the bridge, in green robes, a man stood calmly, facing them, as though he had been waiting for them for some time. He greeted them, and asked about the road behind. After pleasantries were exchanged, he told them politiely that the Bandraoi (white druid) had sealed off this area, and that he was communing with the Dragon to try and calm the disturbances of the world.
The other end of the bridge was lost in a green darkness, the faint rustling of ivy barely audible over the river’s swelled sound below as the Afongwyn tumulted toward the sea.
Caerdwyn explained their mission, and that they had come following Lord Rhys’ prior mission against the Mistlord, and that they too wished to speak to the Dragon.
The draoi nodded, “You may pass, Questioner, only if you can break the power of the draoi – so we will know that the Bandraoi sanctions your intervention, not to mention the Dragon.”
Caerdwyn opened the eye. There was power there, and complex. Some shaking force that he had not seen before. The plants on the other side of the bridge were full of it, and the power was flooding through one of the two men hiding in the woods on the other side of the bridge.
Taking hold of his Sciandearg (skee-un-DAIR-ug), and focusing the blade of it with his mind, he bypassed the power in the plants and struck at the mind of the one holding it. BREAK, he spoke with his inner voice. The draoi’s mind burst into wild colors and went dark. In the green world, Bayeo saw the bridge guardian give a start and turn back toward the end of the bridge, where the ivy and the oak branches shook and then went limp, falling partly away.
Saar heaved his heavy mallet. “We go on across the bridge, now.”
Staring, startled, at the company as they passed, the draoi stood aside.
Guaer smiled a great cat’s grin all the way to the other side of the river. One of the draoi was kneeling down by his companion, a long dagger in his hand pointed towards the company. There was some back and forth posturing until the Bridge Warden intervened. Caerdwyn checked the fallen draoi and he seemed stunned and unconscious but otherwise unharmed.
The party made their way forward with the Warden draoi’s blessing, into the Dragon’s Mouth.
The wide bay did not seem to be as Saar remembered it, changed by piled boulders and a pounding sea. There was the entrance to the Dragon’s cave on the other side of the semi-circle of the bay. They began to thread their way down among the rocks. They caught sight of the Bandraoi and were chilled: at the top of the cliffs, two oaks twisted together, holly shining among their limbs. Tied to the branches was the silver-bearded man, his white robes splattered with blood. He did not seem to still be living.
Part of the way down the bowl of stone and scattered shale, the trail split into three, and three separate sites. To the left, at the mouth of the cave, a pale, familiar figure was waving, beckoning. Down in the center of the vale, there was a bowl of mist, inside of which there seemed to be a house. Off to the right, the sea was pounding and crashing on the stones and it seemed a figure stood, glorying amid the spray.
Remembering the advice given Bayeo through Sir Pavyk, they did not take the bait. Caerdwyn announced to the lurking powers that if they wished to speak, and to offer advice or counsel on the disposition of the Dragon’s Egg, they would need to send representatives out to meet the company there in the bowl in none of the 3’s territory.
With a seethign of stones and a crashing of water, the powers seemed to comply. The mist swirled, but produced nothing. From the cavern, with the air shaking in the bowl, came Sir Pavyk, looking colorless and dressed in ancient finery. From among the stones, a small sea made its quick way sliding along the path.
Caerdwyn made it clear that he, who has confronted Machain, would brook no nonsense in this parlay. The representatives seemed nonplussed. They demanded each to tell their stories, the Dragon and the Serpent, and to have Caerdwyn choose among them.
Instead, Caerdwyn and Bayeo told the stories of corruption, of secret wizards and spidermen and the corruption of wells and the waters of the earth outside of Dun Mynn. The duo speak to the Earth and Sea about the turning of the nations of Mawr against one another, of a seeming plot that worried even the aloof P’ntri enough to send a party in the Teinwood, and their last number to the human bards for assistance.
The seal of the Serpent spoke of the anger of the skies and strangers in the sea. The Dragon spoke of dark movements of the earth and among the places of the Builders. Caerdwyn suggested there was evidence from Bayeo’s forebearers that the Mistlord was interfered with by some power, that some falsehood spread between them and that the Dragon’s war with the Mistlord and its subsequent discorporation may have been a manipulation rather than the truth.
The seal showed its master’s disturbance: eyes closing sideways and the small seal mouth showing teeth and more than one tongue. Sir Pavyk looked pained, as though a Dragon’s roar were buffeting him unseen. Some power protected the company from the disturbances they could not see.
Eventually things calmed. The Dragon revealed that the Mistlord was trapped in the Egg, which was not in fact the Dragon’s, but came with the man-kings from across the sea. The Dragon and the Serpent agreed to turn their attentions to things, to try and seek what power might be turning its might against Mawr.
Sir Pavyk turned to Saar, but the voice was not the knight’s, “You have served your master and his intent well, and long beyond what could have been expected of you. You may rest now.” And very quietly, and without drama (so like the Saar they had known all this time), the Saren sat down, leaning against his pack. His eyes falling closed, his spirit passed out of the world of the living, to wherever the souls of Saren go to after they leave the green world.
There seemed not much left to do, and a sudden terrible tiredness overtook them as Sir Pavyk wavered, and faded, and the small seal skittered down into the mist after the Dragon’s Egg, which rolled, shining, down into the grey.
They had fought so hard against so much strangeness to come all this way to find information, only to find themselves, solving the problem they had initially set out to investiagate. But there were so very many more problems, so many mysteries that had not yet yielded themselves.
It might all be too much for the mortal coil. Or perhaps that was something else, that exhaustion, some exposure to Powers that the mortal frame could not compass….