In some kind of silent choreography, the Abbess stoked the life back into the room, like a woman stirring incarnadine life back into darkened coals. Slowly, like a child’s mobile stirred by the wind, movement and conversation came back, and all those there entered into a state of pretending the group in their midst had not come on the crow’s wings, bearing news of death and dark tidings.
A moment of thought, like a dark and causeless shadow on a noonday moor, passed visible across the Abbess. She found them again with her rosemary-flower eyes. She found her straightness again, and they knew why she had probably been named Gwyn, which meant “fair”. “Come,” she said, “we will speak.”
There were, in those 4 simple words an immense relief and gratitude. Only in that moment, perhaps, did they realize that they had been carrying with them a weight of knowledge and purpose that seemed secret and solitary.
They passed into the bowels of the Abbey, along hallways, and through a small amphitheater lit by a small fire, where one boy was evidently telling ghost tales to a group of other boys near to his age, who all seemed singularly interested, but unterrified.
Down a hallway of curtained doorways to the first wooden door they had seen in this place. They passed into an office. There was a coal brazier there, and both Bayeo and Caerdwyn expected to see books and ink and paper and the trappings of such an office as it would have been at the Practical, but there were none of these things. There was instead, art upon the walls, and instruments in many cases, and bells and candles and stanchions, and small devices of metal that defied their description.
Also within the room were the surprised and a great surprise. A man with a great red bulbous nose, later to be identified as High Bard Fearn, husband to the Abbess, looked up, shocked, to take them in. He muttered some half-protest of secrecy to his wife, who agreed, but said this was not the time, and that he would understand. The surprise was one of the P’ntri – black as night, cool, perched upon the wooden table in the center of the room.
Caerdwyn, and who he was and who he represented, was known to the Abbess and her husband. Also the Wave Marshal, Llewer, was known to them. The secrets of Arric’s expedition, however, were not. To garner good will, or set the scene, or for some as-yet-undiscovered reason, the Abbess began the telling of secrets by revealing a mission into the unknown that an unnamed former student took part in. There was some Ternyn expedition into uncharted or dangerous lands. The Abbess secretly sent a bard along to bear witness, to report back whatever they may have discovered. The expedition disappeared for long months, passing even (so they say) beyond the knowledge of the Salkai. When the ship finally showed back up, only 3 crew members remained aboard: the captain, hopelessly mad, a dying mate, and the bard, also hopelessly mad and corrupted with some bodily sickness.
Caerdwyn shared their tale with the assemblage, helped in pieces by Saar, who insisted that Telsara became separated from the group while they were dragons, and he assumed she had perished with the others before the wrath of the children of the Mistlord. No one insisted on correcting the poor, misled Saren that he surely meant while they imagined themselves to be dragons.
Wave Marshall Llewer’s tale of the disappearance of the Salkai and the seeking of assistance and wisdom from the Wave Marshalls was told again, in brief.
The P’ntri, whose name turned out to be Gaer, told his story of being with a group sent to investigate the disappearance of the Spinners of Teinwood – a race of large spiders who live in the dark wood and who possess a kind of group intelligence. As part of their investigation, their group entered a Builder (he called them Makers) structure within Teinwood, and that their leader “aligned it”. They had an encounter with what sounded like the same creature that the party faced in Ceann na Dana. It slew the rest of his party, and Gaer observed the creature “seal” the Maker structure and depart. He came East seeking counsel with the Bards before returning the long length of the mountains to <unpronounceable cat place>.
Gaer urged Caerdwyn and company to return with him to that same <unpronounceable cat place> to talk with the White Elders, the “priests” of the P’ntri. After being refused, Gaer said the White Elders know of the Serpent and the Dragon because it was they who made the world. He told Caerdwyn he would accompany his party because, “Although Gaer is not a match for the mystery of the Makers, Caerdwyn must be, and so Gear would not fail in his task.” He left the group alone for “human talk”.
The Abbess urged them to consider a few things: a) the seeming discrepancy of Telsara dying and being alive and somewhere in the Pynwydden, b) examining the site of the battle with the Mistlord, c) trying to find or contact this “Dragon”.