Afloat in the heavy but light-floating Saren dugout, they made their way serenely along the swollen river. The grasslands and empty, flooded fishing villages of southern Cahál slid past, quiet, lovely, home to white, long-legged cranes stepping with delicacy among the grasses and reeds.

The river was swift in its swollen banks, hurrying to fill the Maevan Fens, home of Cahál’s original seat. A day passed and they camped in an unremarkable meadow on a hill above the river.

Bayeo wakes in the morning, dripping with dreams. He enlivens the fire. The groundcover crackles with frost as he moves. One of the sticks burning is a fruitwood of some sort, perhaps lemon or fenydd. The water is roiling now, and he hands a cup to Sir Pavyk who takes it and gazes into the steam. “When will you begin to teach me the language of my people, Pavyk?” The snake curls itself around the embers of the fire and hugs them close, relaxing in the warmth. “When will you begin to listen to me?” His head wishes to pivot to the angle of a confused cub, and he overrules it. “Do I not listen to you?” There is a softening of Pavyk’s melancholia. It is not a smile, but perhaps closer to one than Bayeo has yet seen of him. The snake sighs into the ash, red sparks flurry. “When will you begin to listen to me?” An inquisitive tug at his neck muscles is fought back. “Do I not listen to you?” Pavyk’s face lightens, just a bit. Scales glow in the firelight, softening slightly in the warmth. “When will you begin to listen to me?” Bayeo feels the rise of confusion, and his neck doesn’t quite begin to turn. “Do I not listen to you?” The bluegray of Pavyk’s jaw is touched by the firelight, seeming to warm the unwarmable. The red of the snake’s scales seems to burn deeper, like blood after the lungs. “When will you begin to listen to me?” His inner cub chases its tail, but he holds the stillness of the adult. “Do I not listen to you?” A softening. Cold blood pumps warm. “When will you begin to listen to me?” His neck wants to turn, doesn’t. “Do I not listen to you?” A warming. Snakefire. “When will you begin to listen to me?” turn “Do I not listen to you?” lightening scales “When will you begin to listen to me?” rota “Do I not listen to you?” lightning tongue “When will you begin to listen to you?” spin “Do I not listen to me?” sparks “When will you listen?” “Do I not listen?” fire “When will you” turn “Speak to me?”
“You have been speaking the language of your people with me for hours. We have worn away the morning with our talk. We have spoken for days and years, ages of the world, and yet you still do not listen. Go back to sleep.”
He wakes in the morning, dripping with dreams. He gazes into the sky above. The crimson snake curls close beside his neck, hugging into the warmth, its tongue flicking out and in, out and in, tasting the world slowly.


The next day passed swiftly and by afternoon, they were entering the edges of the great fens. The gorge of the rivers pouring into the lowland country had made the fens a kind of shallow lake, and only Dian’s intuition for the land keep them in the course of the river.

In the gathering dark, they spotted nearby some ruins emerging from the mud and water, one was a tower’s top, canted only slightly, that looked to be more than able to hold them. There were some small structures atop the tower.

Able to reach the crenellations atop the tower from their boat, they quickly unloaded their things and moored the boat to the tower’s edge. They set up camp, and as darkness began to fall, they became aware of a blue-white glow. In the middle distance, like a head and shoulders rising from the dark land, the buik of a Builder building shone like a beacon, the radiance effulgent and wide across the froggy bulk of the dark. They resolved to keep an eye on it as they brought their carefully-shepherded firewood for the fire they were to build. It had seemed an easy thing to get a fire seen in the dark of a great swamp. But now, with this Builder structure shining so, they had no idea what they might end up attracting….