The Hound

The cŵn is gone, but Gwrgi lives. Whatever fight it was that Horace had with Gwrgi resulted in the latter being shot, with lead and with iron. And in the process of healing him, he has been restored to his original, so far as I know, form.

After the trauma of the cleansing of the corruption, and the efforts involved with cleaning up afterwards, I was half-asleep in my chambers, when I felt a surge of pain and anger and loss from Valene. I jerked me awake and upright, calling out her name in response. As I called to her, I saw images, as if through her eyes, of the large cŵn sprawled out on the ground, in a cave, clearly injured, and I could see Valene’s hands burning as she pulled iron balls from his flesh.

I called out for Royce, but there was no sign of him. In desperation, I reached out with my hand, slashing at the air as I had seen him do with his paws, when he opened the way to the Roads. To my immense surprise, it actually worked, as if I had always known the means to open the way to the Roads, but had never realised it. I stepped through and ran from there to Valene’s throne room, her cave, her sanctuary, but there was no sign of her there. I ran back to the signpost at the centre of the Roads, scanning it for any sign, for any clue. I called out her name again, desperate to get to her as once more her pain and loss echoed through me. The sign-post hummed and rippled, the names on the posts moving too fast for me to comprehend, and it seemed like it was whispering all the names as they rippled past. I could not follow them, nor hear them and almost despaired. I stopped, and decided to stop trying to understand. This was not a time for logical thought; I had to trust to instinct. I focussed my mind on Valene and reached out again, tearing a hole that I had to trust would take me to her.

The tear opened up in a great cave, filled with crystalline light and a well of clear water. I had seen this place before, in my dreams of Faermorn, but before I could get a sense of where I was, I was overwhelmed with the power of the Wyld. It knocked me to my knees as it rushed over me and through me. This was so much more than I had experienced before. It was raw, primal, a bright power that dazzled and burned. For a few moments, I felt myself drowning in it until I stopped resisting, let it flow over me, around me, through me, and felt myself bob to the surface, like a swimmer temporarily swamped by a wave. I felt my fae side bursting out, my ears lengthening, and something else happening to my head.

As I regained the use of my senses, I saw Valene crouched over the body of the cŵn, throwing power at him to help heal his wounds, while around him there were iron balls, and silver, that had perhaps once been bullets. The rage and frustration flooded through her, blinding her, and I knew not if she was even aware of my presence. Nevertheless, I ran to her, holding her from behind, pouring my love and protection into her. Her blood and her tears were falling on the bedraggled skin of Gwrgi, merging with swirls and patterns that were appearing on the skin. His flesh writhed and twisted, pushing out the contamination. I could feel the magic rushing through her as she pushed it at him, healing, changing, restoring. Even as I held her, I could feel her body changing, her shape and appearance shifting, flickering too fast for me to see until, with a final scream, she pushed more magic into Gwrgi and collapsed in my arms. I held her tight, not knowing what else I could do, gazing down at a familiar shape, a familiar pale, spotted skin – the shape I had known and loved so many years ago in London.

The magic surged through Gwrgi’s body, and he writhed on the ground, contorting and shifting, limbs lengthening here, shrinking there, the hair receding into the skin until, there before me, lay a humanoid form, pale-haired, elven in shape. I stared, even as I held Valene tight in my arms. Could this be the original form that Gwrgi had been before he had been taken by the Huntsman? She had once told me that he was an elf beforehand.

She shuddered against me, coming to, eyes focussing on the form before her. She darted forward, rolling him over and wrapping herself around him. I went with her, knowing only I needed to be with her. She turned and looked at me with eyes I knew so well, seemingly aware of my presence for the first time. She seemed confused, perhaps by my presence, or perhaps by the restoration of her friend or possibly both. Gwrgi rolled over, briefly opening his eyes and recognising Valene before lapsing into unconsciousness.

It was then that we noticed Cait were lining up around us, forming a protective cordon. I looked up and there, at the edge of the lake, was the Huntsman, staring at us, with three of his cŵn behind him. Valene whispered at me to help get Gwrgi upright between us. I had to take most of the weight since she is so small compared to him, and me. We stood and faced the Huntsman. Valene addressed him saying that she had come to recover what was hers. Her kind had offered no harm or hindrance to him. She named Gwrgi Swiftfoot and she named me, saying we were hers and she would not give us to him.

The Huntsman shook his head and said he had no claim on either of us and did not want us. We were not of his pack, had no debts, and were not foresworn. There was, however, an issue that needed to be resolved, something to do with what had happened the previous night. I did not know what that might be about unless it was something to do with the events that had caused Gwrgi to be injured. Whatever it was, he seemed angry about it. I stood beside Valene and said that he knew who I was, so any issues he had, he could speak of with me too.

Valene shook her head. She asked me to take Gwrgi back to her den and take care of him for her. She would speak with the Huntsman. She assured me that she would not be in danger, and the Huntsman’s word was good. Curiously, that much I trusted. I gathered Gwrgi into my arms and asked if she could spare some of the Cait to assist me. With that, I parted the ways and stepped through to her den, leaving her to deal with the Huntsman’s issues.

I made up a bed for Gwrgi as best I could, and asked the Cait to fetch me some cloths and water. While that was being dealt with, I parted the ways again and went briefly to my own chambers, where I found some older clothes of mine that might fit Gwrgi in his elven shape. Once I got back, I cleaned him up as best I could while he was unconscious and made him comfortable. He could come and have a bath back at the castle once he was awake again. That done, I made myself comfortable on the throne and dozed until Valene returned. She did not speak of what passed with her and the Huntsman, instead, she curled up against Gwrgi and insisted I join her, so I curled up against her on the other side until we all drifted off into uneasy sleep.

I had all but forgotten the strange sensation on my head when I first arrived in the cave, but when I saw my reflection in the bowl of water, I realised I had grown a pair of very fine horns, curved like a ram’s. I can only assume that was a result of the additional Wyld energy down there. It took me until part-way through the following day before I could get them to go away again, which led to a certain amount of embarrassment at my morning meeting with the staff. I dare not even speculate what aspect of my nature that represents.

The Hound

 

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