I knew I should have paid more attention during contract law classes. I thought we had Braeden on the ropes, but that does not appear to be the case. At least, not the way we thought.
I am too tired to recall the events in detail, but we were summoned to the Roads, by the big signpost. Myself, Gwyn and Aoibheann. Braeden was also there, pacing up and down. I do not think Valene was pleased with us, as she drew a line between the three of us and Braeden and said that anybody that crossed it would be left in the Roads to deal with her mother. Oh yes, her mother – the one who was circling overhead and occasionally swooping down to bite off a piece of Valene’s wings.
Our interpretation of the oath wasn’t quite correct. The difference was very fine; a gnat’s whisper of a difference, but technically, Braeden wasn’t foresworn with regard to the harm done to Aoibheann. At least, in so far as the turning to stone is concerned, irrespective of the longer term damage to Aoibheann’s mental state. So, we can’t get him on that, and we can’t negate the agreement Gwyn made to go with him to meet the Huntsman. So, that still has to happen, but at least Valene agreed that there is nothing to stop any of the rest of us coming along. We all agreed not to take the case further – for if we did press out case for oath-breaking, whichever side lost would have to take their chances with the Wild Hunt – the final punishment for that most serious of crimes.
However, it does seem that Braeden has managed to get himself into a pickle without our help, and without me having to wield my pocket-knife. Oddly, it was Aoibheann who worked it out first. She seemed to be following a train of thought and then started cackling with glee. Braeden’s vow to not harm Aoibheann conflicts with his duties, his binding to the Huntsman. I knew there was some binding, but did not know what it was. He is bound as one of the cŵn, one of the hellhounds, to bring prey to his master, and yet, in fulfilling that he would cause harm to Aoibheann. Unless, and Valene pointed out that this was a task that might make mighty Atlas quail, he could persuade his master to not harm her. I almost felt sorry for him, he seemed almost resigned to his fate, to this dilemma and what it might do to him. Aoibheann, on the other hand, seemed delighted, pacing around and laughing with an almost savage delight at his situation.
There was nothing more we could do. Nothing more could be resolved until Gwyn fulfilled her part of the bargain, going with Braeden to meet with the Huntsman. Only once that is out of the way, can other questions be resolved. Much as I try to convince myself that all we agreed on was a meeting, no more, no harm, no chase, no collection of souls, just a meeting, every fibre of my being cries caution. This meeting cannot be avoided, and I fear for my beloved Gwyn. She will not go alone, and I only hope I am strong enough, wily enough, and clever enough to keep her from harm. I can not, and will not lose her.
In other news, as I found before we met with Valene, the demon puppy, Rachel, has learned a new trick, playing with wind magic. She was foolish enough to try this in the vicinity of Ardan, resulting in what could only be described as a mini-tornado, making somewhat of a mess of the undergrowth around the tree. It was hard to tell if she was more concerned about Gwyn’s reaction or that of the ‘authorities’ when they saw what damage had been done. I decided to leave it up to her what to tell Gwyn.