For all that we strive to ensure our survival through this forthcoming doom, it seems as though some may not make it. First we have Faermorn saying that she will go to the arms of the Mother, and now, I have Galyanna being most pessimistic about her chances of coming through the forthcoming troubles alive. And again, as with Faermorn, I am saddened by this, for I have only recently begun to get to know Galyanna. I have the very greatest respect for her, and we have fought side by side on several occasions now, somehow understanding each other, even though she is a warrior, and I have always claimed I am not, though I do not know if I can still truthfully make that claim. And, I have come to like her a lot, even if I do not know her well. I do not even know what manner of being is behind that mask, save that she is female of her kind. I regret that I do not know her, and I hope that she will survive, and that I can get to know her better. I’ve gotten used to having her around.
I was in the tavern, taking a well-earned drink after the tedious business of distributing and explaining the addition to the emergency procedures regarding the Shadow Roads. Given how hard it was to explain, perhaps I should have just left it as “Do not go outside the village, by order.” I was bemoaning this to Hal when he told me that the “small woman in all the armour who never drinks” had been looking for me. I guessed that he meant Galyanna, as I had been expecting her to come and find me about the access to the vaults. I told him that I was sure that she would find me soon enough.
And sure enough, she soon did. I was forewarned by this strange link I have, through Maric, to the castle, that she had been there, and had been directed to the tavern to find me. She came in, as silently as ever, and waited until I turned around. Which I did, slowly, not wishing to give away how I knew she was there. I told her that the good news was that I could now take her to the vaults, and to the mirror, if she still wished to polish it, or whatever it was that she had wanted to do. She said that she wanted to see it, and be able to tend to it, as did Patch if she wasn’t available.
I told her that I could take her there, but I could not yet set things up for her to go on her own. Lord Maric would have to deal with doing that and it would require samples of blood. She seemed a little bemused by that until I explained that we were vampires, so naturally, we would use blood magic. I promised her that the blood would not be used for any other purpose and neither would we be drinking it. She accepted that with a nod and asked to be taken to see it so that she could know where it was and asked that I do the same for Patch if necessary. I told her that I was not sure if Maric would agree to them having access on their own, as he was not overly trusting. With that, I finished my drink and took her to the castle.
I took her into the cellar and then into the vaults, explaining how the entrance to the vaults was controlled by a special key that only myself, Maric and Kustav had access to. I must admit, I did get a little lost in the vaults, before I managed to find my way to the laboratory. I will get the hang of those corridors some day. I went into the lab and deactivated the ward before inviting her down. She looked around, ever the tactician, no doubt working out how best to get in and out. She wanted to know if we could arrange things so that she and Patch could have access to get in here. I said I would ask Maric about it, but again, pointed out that he might not be too keen. I also pointed out that if we did need to activate it, we would most likely be all sheltering in the cellars anyway, so would not have far to come, and I would be there to make the arrangements.
While she thought about that, I had a brief conversation with Maric mentally. Mostly I wanted to check what I could talk about, since I didn’t know if Vedis or Galyanna knew about the arrangement with Nemaine, and also, to ask his opinion on the idea of giving Galyanna or Patch the access they wanted. He said to keep quiet about all the arrangements, it was up to Vedis to tell her people, and as far as access was concerned, he preferred to keep the gate-keeping to ourselves. I had to agree with him on that, much as I felt I could trust Galyanna. There was something else going on as well, something very happy. I could only guess that things were going well with Aoibheann.
I carried on talking to Galyanna, with only brief pauses to speak with Maric. We talked about the escape plan through the mirror and I told her that Aoibheann and I had apparently been excluded from taking part in the battle, by agreement with Vedis. I told her that I didn’t like to stand idly by while others battled, even if I was no warrior, but I supposed that somebody needed to organise things down here on the ground. Galyanna decried my claims to not be a warrior, telling me that I fought well enough. I suppose I could not argue with her there, even if I did not know how I came to be so. I was trained as an accountant, I told her. I indicated the sword and said that it was as alien to me as a double-entry ledger might be to her. But, I agreed with her, I didn’t seem to have done too badly. Maybe, I told her, I had learned something from reading all those books about Arthurian knights and such like. Unlike her, I had not had the benefit of training, aside from the time I had spent with Alec’s and Maric’s guards. I did say that in recent battles, I had the enormous advantage of having her at my side. Maybe I had learned something from her.
Or you have something to protect, she said, sounding like she was smiling, adding that I obviously cared for her. I assumed that she meant Gwyn, but it could also apply to Aoibheann, Helene and others, including now, I supposed, Faermorn. We will be protecting you as best we can, she told me, no matter what people might think of them. She assessed the room again, saying she would have to make sure that Patch knew what needed to be done. He could move swiftly when he needed to, and would be well able to protect Vedis when he replaced her. I caught a sense of sadness, or perhaps resignation from her, as though she were sure she would not survive the battle. Protecting people had always been my driving force, I told her. Even before I took up the sword, I would have died to protect my own. But, I said, I hoped that it would not be necessary for Patch to replace her. While I was sure that Patch was perfectly able to do the job, I rather liked having her around, and liked to consider her as a friend that I would miss were she gone.
You are too kind, she told me. Given that she was going to be battling with the Morning Star himself, it made sense to ensure that her apprentice was able to take her place. I could trust Patch, she told me, as much as I trusted her. Again, there was that sense of resignation. Or perhaps, realism, assessing her chances against Old Nick. Tell him everything you say is a lie, I said to her, remembering the Epimenides Paradox, and wait for his head to explode trying to work it out. I mentioned that my old vicar at home had some specific ideas about dealing with that particular person, but I doubted, somehow that they would work for either of us.
There was little more we could do here, so I made moves to go back up to the main part of the castle, saying I couldn’t leave her here as I needed to reset the ward and didn’t want her to be the one to try out its effectiveness. “Maybe I could trust Patch,” I said, “but I’ve gotten kind of used to having you around. I’ve gotten kind of used to having me around, so let’s keep our spirits up, and let’s hope we are both still around afterwards.” She chuckled at that, saying that perhaps it would be so, but, if she did die, she would at least know she had done so helping her queen regain her home.
We had no more words for each other as we made her way out of the castle. We made our farewells at the main door and then she faded off into the shadows, presumably reporting back to Vedis. I stood and watched her go, feeling a little sad. It was true, I did not know her well, this enigmatic warrior whose face I had not even seen, but somehow I felt a kindred spirit there, a bond forged in the heat of battle, and I knew that I would indeed miss her. Perhaps she was being realistic about her chances, but I could only hope that she would come through. I could only hope that we would all come through. What our chances are, I do not know, given the quality of our enemies, but I have to hope. With everything else going on, I have to have hope.