Vanya and the Green Knight

People were flooding in from Runefeld. Narsilon, his mage, had urged him to turn them away. How could Blackpoole feed two Righs? But Gar said that if he took them in, Runefeld would be his without contest. Its fields were not always so barren, and its warriors were famed. Better to suffer hunger this winter with them, than to let a new Righ take Grimghast’s place, and the survivors nurse their wounds and their grievances.

Grimghast’s body had been found the morning after they had brought Innis back to the Hall, the day of the gathering of the dead. The once Righ had been near where they found Innis, the arms cut off in one stroke, and the head in another. Decisive blows. No one wondered whose sword had made them. Grimghast’s warriors, those who still lived, had come to offer themselves to him. He gave them gold torcs and goblets with an open hand, as generous as Hrothgar in tales. But it was Innis that they asked about. Who was the man who fought alone? Who was he dyed the color of blood, even to the roots of his hair? Maeglin didn’t blame them for where their hearts lay. His went that way too.

While he sat on his throne and accepted the upheld swords, while he stood in the council room with Gar and Narsilon weighing the census against bushels and herds, while he walked the houses of healing till the stench of wounds and poultices was thick on his clothes…his mind was in the longhouse where Innis slept. He had wanted to post guards, but Gar said it would only attract attention. Keeping out curious warriors wasn’t really why he had wanted to post them, only a pretense, but he couldn’t tell Gar that. He was certain every time he went back that the bed would be empty, inexplicably.

Innis was tall, misleadingly awkward when he moved. Gregarious, rough, common mannered. On the one hand he was the perfect copper coin of Armagh’s mint, one hearty warrior of a thousand. He was earthy as the green grass. There was nothing frail about him. What was it then, that marked him as otherworldly? What was it that made it seem like he could step sideways through a veil of shadow and be gone? Could it be that he was half elven? Maeglin had met elves, had watched them step out of mist and leaves, suddenly at his elbow. They hadn’t made him feel the way Innis did now. If anything, he acted too human to be half elven. Not a hint of snobbery, no thorny uncertainties about his bastard heritage, and he seemed to prefer the company of a drunk crowd to solitary gardens. Why then? Where was he looking, when his eyes lost focus? His face was young, smooth and cheerful as the rolling foothills in spring. But if you caught him not looking right at you, he looked older, features carved out and shaded in contrast like the mountains when the sun was low. What distant sorrow drew those long shadows? Was it only that he was cursed with the blood rage, marked by some fickle deity?

Gar said this obsession was the fault of a keen mind, adding that he was prone to discontent. Was curiosity and restlessness all this was? Who wouldn’t be curious about a half eleven warrior grown who couldn’t ride a horse? Who said bizarre things and laughed sadly to himself.

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Nalga

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