Blackkoven’s Captain, Part 6: Chain

With Westmont’s lame leg and Shay’s near blindness it was several days before they could move much further than the banks of the little pond. With remarkably little difficulty they learned to work together, each understanding what needed to be done and generally how. They discovered they agreed more often than not. And, each being accustomed to soldiery, they complained very little. It was an awkward situation but companionable enough.

By the end of the second day they managed to light a fire which made their existence substantially less miserable. Cress and old berries did little to sustain, and by the third day, Nevin devised small traps to catch game. Shay was able to strip a large portion of bark from a tree that served as a crude scoop for cornering fish in the pond that they then caught by hand. Slowly throughout the week their situation improved.

The conversation turned sour only once when the topic of what they were going to do when Westmont could walk again came up. Westmont favored returning to Blackkoven, and Shay to the Village and Terrasylvae. They came to no conclusion. After that they focused on simply staying alive.

By the end of the week. Shay no longer needed the bandage around her eyes but she could see only a few feet in front of her and not very well. There were still spots in her vision but the edges were coming a little clearer. Nevin could go a little further than the pond but he had to take many breaks, often the wounds in his leg would open up on these excursions because they had no way to stitch them closed.

On the eighth day at the pond, Shay concluded it was time to break the chain so she could go for help. Westmont didn’t blame her for wanting to leave, but he doubted she would return. He gave himself half a chance that he would die beside the pond before he could walk out.

He didn’t mind. It was a beautiful enchanted place. It was calm and quiet. Lights danced over the water at night. Sometimes they seemed to laugh. As the days went by their numbers grew. He didn’t know what they were, and Shay couldn’t see them yet, but they were beautiful. There was a peaceful feeling about the place, as though they were being watched over.

He didn’t want to die, but if he was going to, it seemed better to him to cross the Styx from this place than on some forsaken battle ground, fighting some other man’s war. For the first time since joining up with Blackkoven, Westmont thought there could be another path for him. He regretted that he might not live to follow it.

When Shay broached the subject of breaking the chain instead of arguing with her he confessed he already had a plan to break the chain himself. It involved heating the chain in a fire then beating it with furiously with a rock. It was a fairly simple plan, and Shay could think of no way to improve it.

Two full days were spent gathering wood and preparing to execute the plan. On the following day, the eleventh day, Nevin’s leg opened badly. Instead of heating the chain to work on their plan, Shay heated it and cauterize his wounds as best as she could. She spent the twelfth day hoping Nevin would wake up again.

He did wake, but was in no state to help with the plan. Shay set to it herself. She carefully placed a large flat rock near the edge of the pond and built the fire on top of it. While the chain was heating Nevin and Shay let their wrists lay in the water so they didn’t burn. It took a long time to get the chain to a golden glow, and she could only beat it 100 times before she had to return it to the flames. It reminded her of kneading the dough in her bakery. She allowed this memory to motivate her. There was a noticeable result by nightfall but it would take a few more days of this before they were free.

As Shay fell asleep that night she could see the moon was nearly full. She’d been gone from home almost two weeks. She missed her family terribly and hoped all was well with the Order. Her vision was nearly returned and she could finally see the lights Nevin had talked about. They were fae. And they were beautiful. By the full moon they might just be near enough to the waking world to communicate with. If they were, Shay planned on asking for their help.

As the second week came to a close they were very close to breaking the chain and the moon would be full that night. Shay and Nevin took it in turns to pound throughout the day until he could go no further. Shay continued on as the full moon rose high in the sky.

With the moon came the little lights of the fae. There were dozens of them now each a slightly different hue. They were shy of the fire, and Shay could barely coax them nearer. Finally as midnight approached Shay let the fire die to embers. The bravest faires came floating near enough to have a chat.

These fairies were not like Titania’s bold and brassy host. These fae were more wild, and timid.  Though their leader came near, she shared no common tongue. Shay tried words from all the languages she’d ever heard. Nothing seemed to mean anything to the lovely gold and green light dancing before her. When the fairy spoke to Shay all that she could hear was the sound of bells, rushing wind, and flowing water. The air-filled with the smell of mint, and spring roses, while thoughts of velvet pillows, silk sheets, and endless rest filled her mind.

Shay could feel herself slipping into the realm of the fae and might have gone had not Nevin reached out to touch the light at that precise moment. Carefully so as not to offend the little fairy Shay reached out to pull Nevin back from the brink. As she lowered his hand, he shook himself, and drifted quietly back to sleep.

The little lights hovered over him for a moment then flitted out over the water and into the trees for their midnight dance under the full moon. Shay followed their flight and for a moment thought she saw a wolf standing at the brim of the pool where it flowed out and down stream. Not in the water but on top of it. Then a cloud covered the moon and the wolf vanished.

With the visit from the fairies Nevin seemed to sleep better and Shay felt refreshed enough to rekindle the fire and continue work on the chain. She worked through the night. As dawn came the chain was nearly thin enough to break. It was heating once more in the flames when Nevin woke. He had dreamed of a wolf named Vann Oru walking on water. He told Shay, expecting her to laugh, instead she nodded as though she understood.

After more cress and some fish for breakfast the chain was glowing bright red and nearly white in places. Nevin suggested they try pulling on it to see if they could break it between them. Shay agreed. Carefully, keeping the chain well away from them, they hobbled to a nearby oak tree. And wrapped the chain around it sitting down on the other side. Shay braced her feet against the trunk and Nevin used his good leg to hold his position.

On a count of three they took up the chain and pulled against it with all their might. The links were hot in their hands, near to burning them, but not quite. They strained and pulled using their legs and backs. Slowly the iron began to stretch and separate. It creaked as it did so, fighting their efforts to the very end. The bark of the tree hissed as the links branded the wood. Shay began shouting as she often did in battle. Nevin followed suit. Finally the links eased apart with a small ‘pop,’ and Nevin and Shay fell to the ground free at last.

They both started laughing. The feeling died as they looked to each other. Without the chain linking them giving them common purpose they wondered at the same instant if they were enemies once more.

In the silence they heard the unmistakable sound of several bow strings draw.