The old couple slowly revealed that they had information and more for the two dirty men, but that they needed … evidence. Proof that they were who they said they were.
- Lintel – above the door of the stone house, is written “Hope”
- Quest – they came here at the behest of the Siar na Siaraí, looking for his lost relic. They showed Iára & Cláin the ruined fake
- Faarsidhe – as they talked of the Ruined Bride, the couple shared a glance of fire. They explained she was either one of the Mist people, or possibly a ghost of an ancient princess, or a race of beings from the Mists, or… well, maybe all 3. Whatever the truth, if she had sent them in recompense for a favor they asked, that was enough for he couple.
The old woman went and returned with a clean laundry basket, and removed a large octagonal chalcedony jewelry box. She held the bottom in a certain way. She twisted widdershins, and the majority of the box came open, revealing a velvet lining so old it was mostly dust. There was a small, lumpy white stone within.
She described a tall man with a strong brow and piercing eyes who had come to them, who had known the right ancient things, asked for their directions and their help. When he was going to Bryn Dwr, he left them this, saying he hoped to return.
Mab reached out with one ham hand and poked the stone. Cwyn saw suddenly inside the stone a message all wrapped up on itself. As Mab touched the stone it rolled once, and then collapsed into dust that coated the old velvet, turning it pink. Cwyn gasped. The old woman got a cup of tea from the old man and blew the tea mist over the powder, muttering a prayer. Quickly, the dust revealed itself to contain small letters spread out over the velvet. Working furiously, and with some difficulty, Cwyn mastered the translation, Hope in Stone Heart he announced.
Iára and Cláin clearly knew something about that, but weren’t sharing. What they did share is that the man came back. And left something for them. Three times.
- In Ancient Grey clothes – he left an old broach from the time of the High Kings, looking ashen and completely finished. He told them It’s Done
- In the grey travel cloak, but stained and ruined – he left them an unremarkable hunk of hematite, that thrilled Cwyin’s fingers. He was in a rage. He yelled at them Take your family and flee!
- In a rich cloak of the colors of the High King – he was calm and filled with purpose. He left the oily green stone, and told them, There is no Tower
When Iára opened the jewelry box the other way and showed them the 3 remnants left by a departing figure that may have been Ilír, Cwyn went to snatch up the oily-sheened black stone. The godsblood ring burnt his finger and he dropped it back onto the lip of the jewelry box where it rolled onto the table and then unrolled – into an 8-inch black scorpion, already hissing at a shocked Mab.
Mab backed away, and Cwyn rushed across the table, pulling Iára skidding back in her chair, a small shriek escaping her lips. The scorpion scuttled under the table.
Mab slid forward, perhaps to smash the thing, but as it disappeared, arched forward to pluck the shield broach out of the box, yawing his free leg to keep his balance. Cwyn produced his deck of cards. When the scorpion dropped to sting Mab’s quickly retreating foot, Cwyn threw a card with a word on his lips and a lazy spin of the wrist. Somehow the card expanded as it flew, slowing and slowing, until it was the shadow of a great cup within the card, and it fell, crushing the scorpion into a viscous gloop that spread out across the floor.
Before relief could set in, ashes rose from the black stain … and took life as a vicious swarm of stinging black insects. They attacked Mab, rising pricks of blood all over his arms, his face flung under the cape of his toga to save eyes and nose and other bits. Cwyn lit a broom on fire, chasing the insects. Cláin doused Mab with a water barrel. The flies regrouped. Mab ripped the tapestry down from the door and turned to face the twisting swarm. Cláin raised a rolling pin.
Cwyn hurled another card, and it expanded like a mouth, devouring the skree of insects, compressing, crushing them. Then the card faded and squishy lump of inertia hit the ground, scattering into ashes.
A moment of silence and Iára shriekes as the remaining stain on the floor rose behind Cwyn. He spun, and it became an oily image of a man, grabbing him by the neck, squeezing. Cwyn turned purple. Mab rushed across the room, dripping blood from his neck, arms and shoulders. He whipped the tapestry around the grotesque black effigy of Ilír. He squeezed. He stepped back, grabbing up the burning broom. The black liquor of the thing slithered out from under the tapestry. It reformed, in front of Mab, larger than before. Cwyn unleased a card like a scythe. The great raised arm of the thing was slashed right off, dissolving into dust floating in the air.
Mab stabbed the burning broom into the emptiness of the thing, battering it. The oily substance took up the fire like it had always wanted it. It screamed silently, its mouth yawning open, grotesque. Then it was ashes. Dust to dust.
Iára emerged at that point, brandishing an 8-pointed hoop of precious lavendar. She blinked at the empty room. Her husband breathed a sigh, “Thank god you brought the air cleaner, woman!” They all laughed, and even Iára smiled. She moved about the room in an elaborate 8-sided dance. The air seemed to grow clean and clear.
The old couple told them where to find Bryn Dwr, and the telling was like a spell.
- Down the old road, the Rowan Track, 3 miles
- Turn right through the dead oaks
- Cutting through the holly
- Through the crack in the broken stone by the Ro River, AbhainnRo
- Up the track
They brought in their granddaughter, Fiona. She introduced herself as the daughter of the house of Stone Hope. She departed. She was the inheritor of the grandmother’s legacy, evidently.
Finally the old couple told them they thought that the Stone Heart referred to in the message from Ilír was a room of many passages inside the Bryn Dwr.
The couple warned them, glumly, that the place was a Builder structure, but unlike the structures in Ionad, which were purposeful, but simple like a thumb and its nail, this Builder structure was a thinking place, and that they should take care.
As at token left behind, Mab put his goose-down nightmare-catcher above the lintel on the door (which no one else could reach without a ladder). Cwyn left them a promise to come and help, whenever they might need.
They left under the ruckus of a mad squirrel in an old oak arching over the road.
They found Precipice waiting for them in the eaves of the RowanOak. He helped Mab treat his many little bites and cuts with the honey-sticky sap of a flowering bush after he’d washed in a forest pool.
The talked of their quest, and what lay ahead. Given the overarching presence of the past and the High Kings, Precipice suggested they begin their quest at sunset, the ancient start of a day.
They set about to find a camping place, but not anywhere near the cloven stone, as given the preponderance of strangeness and the intrusion of the Bright People, it seemed like poor manners and little sense to linger at a transition point.