Chapter 11. I dream.
I sat at a long and narrow mahogany table, polished and shiny beneath glowing candelabras hung by spidery metal chains from round oak beams. At my side sat the Banshee, and, on the other, the Chieftainess. Around us at this grand table, chattering golden spoons against silver-glass goblets, were Elves clad in complicated finery of linen and silk, embroidered with ivy-green falling leaves on blood-red branches sewn in patterns of clouds and constellations and spotted with thick brass buttons that reflected forests and sky where there were none.
I wore a costume similar, with gathered cuffs and padded shoulders and a black leather belt that slung my sword. I was cooled by a breeze of salty rain and spice and malt and wine. My feet were laced in pointed shoes. My skin glistened with oil; my hair smelled of perfume.
There was a silver-glass goblet of wine in my hand. There was music in the air.
“What is this place?” I asked the Banshee.
The Banshee, alone among the room’s many guests, had its own strange form and shape: vaguely Human, but composed and filled with an amorphous mass of bugs and shadows and the constant buzz of a thousand black flies that hovered as a single hive. I saw no tongue inside the Banshee’s false mouth, nor eyes inside its false head, yet it turned and spoke and I heard its speech.
“You are home,” said the Banshee. “As son of Lord Elwyn, this is your home.”
“I am no son of Elwyn.”
“Lord Elwyn has entreated you to deliver him a son, and so you have. It matters little that this son is not of your choosing.”
“Lord Elwyn’s son is nearby.”
“One son is plenty,” said the Banshee. “There is no need for two.”
I turned to the Chieftainess, but she was in cheerful conversation with her Elf companion, who now called her onto the dance floor.
“We are inside magic,” I said.
“Magic is an advanced form of storytelling,” said the Banshee. “Try to cope.”
“Are you the same creature who prowled the Brown Vale?”
“Then explain yourself, demon. Why do you intrude and oppose me?”
“I intrude no more than your sword,” said the Banshee. “Yet you retain it.”
“My sword has proven its usefulness,” I said.
“I am useful likewise,” said the Banshee. “Note this servant.”
Beside me was a Goblin as ugly, as malformed, as in need of repair as my sword.
This Goblin tended the goblets and bowls of the Elves, ladled their soup, and poured their wine. Though awkward and angular and covered in bumps and scars, this Goblin’s movements deftly kept his hands free and his stance secure. As Elves bobbed and weaved in play, he slid beneath their elbows and stayed several steps ahead of their shoulders and knees.
This Goblin bent to fill my glass.
I reached for his wrist to delay him, but his hands sped and his torso slowed so that my aim was wholly misplaced. My goblet was refilled and placed in my grasp before any awareness and coordination had returned. I watched this Goblin move to another.
“What is your name, clever Goblin?” asked the Banshee. “Is it Twixtamixt?”
“It is not,” said the Goblin. “I am called whatever pleases my Master.”
“Reveal yourself to your Master,” said the Banshee.
The Goblin paused in his labor and looked into my eyes.
The Goblin drew back his brown leather apron, spotted and torn and worn in full cover of his extremities, like the skirt of a dress. Beneath this apron were one leg of wood and another leg of stone.
The wooden leg seemed as hard and polished as the mahogany of the table, yet it moved and swayed like supple willow in high wind. Its joints were notched with bright copper hinges and wheels, and its upper thigh branched into narrow, finger-like twigs that snaked upward into the Goblin’s bloated belly amidst a belt of muddy brown leaves roped and looped by vines of braided silver.
The stone leg had no similar grace nor smoothness nor feeling of life. It was an odd collection of sharp pebbles and misshapen rock. It seemed as though this rough-and-tumble quarry might at any moment collapse. But as this leg’s knee extended and its grainy toes spread, each individual rock and stone fell against some other and constantly rearranged its position so that no space was hollowed and no stone, small or large, fell beyond the whole.
The Goblin replaced his apron and shuffled, like waves on water, away.
“You have seen this Goblin before?” said the Banshee.
“I have not,” I said.
“Your sword leaves its stories unfinished,” said the Banshee.
“It frequently does,” I admitted.
“I am frequently interrupted,” said my sword.
“Come with me,” said the Banshee.
I thought perhaps the Banshee directed this command to the suddenly talking sword, but the Banshee’s blunted hands of tumbling larva and skittering beetles pulled me from my seat. On shoes of pointed toes, I was led by the Banshee beyond the dining hall and down a cylindrical stair of sandstone and granite.
I hesitated to leave the Chieftainess, but she seemed well entertained by her company. And my sword, if I wavered at all in my path down the Banshee’s stairs, clanged roughly against the circular stone walls and impeded my return.
At the bottom of the stairs, I stood with the Banshee before a cavernous hole in rock divided by iron gates and guarded by brass locks.
“The Family of Moss once held its servants here,” said the Banshee. “Have you no memory of it?”
“I do,” I said. “But only in a story of an Ancient Age.”
“Time has no value to Faerie,” said the Banshee. “Neither time nor space.”
“In this, the values of Faeries are similar to those of Goblins,” I said.
“An interesting similarity to ponder,” said the Banshee. “Now look with me.”
And, indeed, the outcropping the Banshee gestured me toward held the perch of the same Goblin craftsman befriended by Meganna, artisan and craftswoman, author and maker of the Beautiful Sword, weaver of clothes and destinies, and, once upon a time, pledged to the Family of Moss.
“The Goblin of the sword’s story had no legs,” I said.
“And now you behold a Goblin of magic that has two legs, finely crafted and functional beyond your own. Is this information of value?”
“I find no lessons or values in stories and magics.”
“If you exhaust all other sources, why should you not equally consider these?”
I could not fault the Banshee’s logic. And so, to salvage what yet remained of the truth, I peered through the iron gates and imagined what might be beyond, long ago, inside some Ancient Age.
A legless Goblin sat atop his perch. His fellows brought him various sizes and shapes of pebbles and stones broken from cavern walls, and he arranged these in lumps and mounds that swirled and shook and scattered in dust.
After many tries, one of these mounds stood whole, spinning and tumbling in the constant ricochet of inside against outside. The Goblin grasped this whirlwind of rock and it became a thick sixth finger that bent and pointed in my direction.
“What spy is this that Faeries send?” said the Goblin.
The Goblin’s fellows gathered to protect him, but did not attempt to bar my approach. I passed through the iron gates and into the cave, moving much as the Banshee moved, dissolving and reforming at will.
“I am no spy,” I said. “Rather you are my dream.”
“And if I believe the opposite — that I am real, and you are the dream — then who is true and who is false?”
“It is difficult to resolve the paradoxes of magic,” I said. “We must only endure them.”
“I am maimed and imprisoned here by the Enchantress Meganna. What is your burden?”
“I fear it is to know your future rather than mine.”
“Let us exchange information then,” said the Master Goblin.
“You will build a leg of stone,” I said. “But it will not be enough to propel you from this place. You will need a second leg, built of wood and leaf.”
The Goblin scratched his face and rubbed his nose. The whirling lump of rocks attached itself to his forehead, where it stretched and lengthened into something like a narwhale’s horn.
“And who will craft this second leg?”
“I believe Meganna will craft it.”
“Meganna will help me escape?”
“You will accept her gift,” I said. “But you will continue to serve.”
“I will use her gift to escape,” said the Goblin. “This is my desire.”
“If you accept her leg, then you will be built otherwise,” I said. “Now what is your information for me?”
“Others like you have appeared in this place, and each has asked some question or made some claim concerning the Witch Meganna. Perhaps it is she you and these other ghosts seek, rather than a captured Goblin in a foul Elf pit.”
“These other ghosts, do they have names?”
“Like you, they have none.”
“From whence do these ghosts come? And where do they go when they leave?”
“They come and go according to their will.”
“Why are none here now?”
“Like you, they come alone,” said the Goblin.
“And when do they leave?”
“Always now,” said the Goblin.