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"Magus Song, Magus Edwards, welcome to Trawsfynydd."

The second Gwen and Ollie alighted onto the soft grass, a pair of Elven women, flaxen-haired and graceful, buzzed from canopy to ground as though descending from a painting.

The fair-haired pair was tall, as tall as Gwen herself if she wore her pump heels. Their figures appeared elongated, gracefully so, but with a hint of the uncanny that differed from the Dwarves' well-proportioned squatness. For one, their graceful necks were so long as to be lofty, while their arms, when at rest, could almost rap their knees with their fingers. The tunics they wore were immodest even by Gwen's standards, consisting of diaphanous layers of gossamer that reminded her of Dragonfly wings, beneath which the contours of their well-toned physique spoke of agility. As she anticipated, the Elves possessed ageless, elfin miens, markedly hinting at the aesthetics of Haute Couture. Likewise uncanny were the High Elves' golden eyes— breathlessly striking, but refracting the light in the form of pearlescent metal, akin to the chroma of a Jewel Scarab.

In totality, the fair Elves' allure was distinct from Evee's adorability or Petra's sensuality; theirs was a beauty that was stark and intimidating, like gazing upon the perfect symmetry of a Golden Orb Weaver.

Gwen glanced at Ollie, other than his high cheekbones; the one-sixteenth Elf was definitively human.

"Your ladyships, we hail from Cambridge," Ollie instructed Gwen to bow. "I am Magus Edwards, and this is Magus Song. I believe we are expected."

"Your eminences are indeed expected," the leading Elf responded with a curtsy. Their articulate limbs both spindly but agile. "Allow me to introduce ourselves. My name is Sanari, and this is Zestari. We are your assigned guides. Welcome to Trawsfynydd. May I show you the way to your assigned cabin?"

The Elven women gestured toward the general direction of the lake, and the duo followed.


Gwen studied the women with the intensity of a spectrometer, scrutinising every detail. Ahead, her foremost host wore a halter-top tunic-dress. From Sanari's posterior, she could see its many layers of semi-rigid silk being tethered by invisible threads, allowing the fabric to extend seamlessly past the Elf's long legs while still affording ample mobility.

Was there a market for Hvítálfar cuture? Gwen did not recall such a thing in London.

Her hostess, Sanari, must have felt the intense inspection, for she turned to express her discomfort by meeting Gwen's eyes.

Gwen cleared her throat.

"Lady Sanari, is there a place here that sells the dresses you're wearing?" she asked casually, thinking that perhaps, she should pick up a set for all her girls in London and Shanghai, especially considering the breadth of her trade network. From what she knew of Tao's peers, theirs was a market with far more Crystals than common sense.

"Of course." Sanari grinned, though Gwen found the expression uncanny. "We have a crafters' hall where those willing to trade with Humans may bring their wares. Trawsfynydd is, foremost of all, a trading hub for our peoples."

Satisfied, Gwen allowed her eyes to wander.
Here and there, rows of individual residences, literal "Air BnBs", lined the treetops overlooking the water. There were other Elves as well, gardeners in their olive overalls, officious looking sorcerers, guards in beetle-carapace, and hosts and hostesses in attires akin to Sanari and Zestari, accompanying Human guests.

Nearer the semi-circle township's epicentre, the foursome passed cafes, restaurants, and the trading hall. The experience, Gwen felt, was meticulously manicured. Here and there, the smiling ash-blonde Elves reminded her of Stepford men and women in a curated utopia. As impressive as it was, Trawsfynydd was no more representative of Elven culture than St. Regis at Bora Bora was representative of Polynesians.

The foursome then travelled in silence for a while longer until they reached the base of an enormous oak at minimum four-storeys tall, crowned with a verdant bower about the width of a large field.

"Here we are." The women curtsied once more, their dresses fluttering in the manner of translucent wings. "Please follow."

Ollie took flight, as did Gwen once she renewed her concentration.

Atop, the canopy cabin turned out to be a plurality of smaller rooms that created the semblance of a larger structure. The central, open cabin with its sloped, bell-shaped room served as a living room, with its interior adorned with ornate Sylvan furniture that favoured curved edges and crested, floral flourishes. To Gwen's mind, the Elf hotel was a stark contrast to the geometric, art-deco design preferred by the Dwarves, unique in its nature-inspired philosophy. From the central 'pod', pathways floored with large-leafed, semi-translucent plank-ways lead to what she presumed were the bedroom, a separate sunroom, and a final chamber with a higher elevation that offered a broad view of the lake.

"The meditation room is the highest point of the lodge, perfect for harnessing mana, among other things."

"Trawsfynydd occupies a ley-junction," Ollie aided the women's explanation. "It is abundant with Elemental Air and Water. In the early morning, we should be able to see the silhouette of Glyder Fawr and its world-topping tree at Tryfan."

Gwen looked out the window.

"The grand trunk of Tryfan isn't visible from the lake view suites." Sanari, the senior of the two, smiled apologetically. "If you wish to see our home, please visit the canopy's lookout. There's an information centre there as well."

Gwen's lips twitched. Did Resort Trawsfynydd come with a Tripadvisor no.1 rating? She wanted to ask. Whatever happened to her high fantasy Elves? Where were the low-key racism and the snottiness? How could her Elven encounter be complete without at least one snub?

She exhaled. "Sanari, am I correct in saying Trawsfynydd is in an Elven resort for the well-to-do?"

"Trawsfynydd is a trading station and a place for arcanists of all races to enjoy rare Elven delights," Zestari assured her from a rehearsed line. "You're still in your combat suit, Magus Song. Would you like to change into something more comfortable? You as well, Magus Edwards. I can sense your weariness. Your work must be very stressful. Our world-famous day spa service is complimentary for our VIPs..."

"Stressful?" Ollie eyed his Void sorceress. "Lady Zestari, you have no idea."

Gwen ignored the jab as her fantasy continued to crumble. What she had hoped for was something akin to Hanmoul's guided tour of the Citadel, where they strolled and spoke at length about history both ancient and recent and reflected on economic and political opportunities.

Now, instead of Glorfindel the Elementalist— what she got, Gwen lamented, wasn't even Arwen, but Sanari, a concierge with the power to bestow rest and relaxation.

"AH— ah— AH—"

Indecent moans conducted through the cultivated oak of the cabin, growing fainter the further the Void sorceress' vibrato cries traversed the bower.

Underneath her towel, Gwen's pliant body quivered; her mind wild with unbidden stimulus. She could have never imagined that her first encounter with "High" Elves, the Hvítálfar of yore, would be both horizontal and intimate.

Though Sanari resembled an anorexic model from Fashion Week, her fingers were freakishly strong, possessing such strength and dexterity that Gwen felt her soul leaving her body.

"How are you so strong, Sanari?" Gwen groaned.

Her strength, Sanari explained, was because in her last 'cycle', she was a Warden. In the cycle before that, she served as a Druid of the First Circle. Now, in her eleventh "Cycle", she chose to be a caretaker at Trawsfynydd.

Gwen asked for clarification, to which her host volunteered that the ageless Elves exercised a role arrangement in which members took on different functions of Elven society during certain periods of their lives. It made sense, given that they were so long-lived. Being stuck doing the same thing for aeons was a case for mastery, but just as likely a source of complacency and boredom. From what Gwen could see of the faintly-smiling Sanari and Zestari, the women had every indication of enjoying their job. At least until Zestari paused for a brief, unprofessional instance when Ollie was revealed to possess the atypical pale, English hobbit-feet, a stark distinction to Gwen' photogenic perfection.

"O— Oooo—" Zestari was ruthless in her assault of the Praelector's scholarly body.

"This will itch…" Sanari's warning came a second before an orb of concentred Druidic mana rolled over the sole of her foot, curling her toes. "Let it sink in."

Gwen grunted, the glistening skin of her trembling shoulders tensing as the knots in her overworked body unfurled one by one, releasing an unbidden undulation of indescribable pleasure not unlike Caliban's gluttony.

"Now for the other one." Sanari arrested her other foot. "Your body is very peculiar, Magus Song."

"How so?" Gwen asked.

"You possess Essence, as we do," the Druid-warder-masseuse noted. "Are you kin to our kind?"

"I am a Vessel," Gwen confessed her open secret.

"Ah." Sanari nodded. "Well done, Magus Song. it is rare that your kind can attract the especial care of an Elder being."

"Ouch— Arrrgh—"

Gwen buried her head in her towel, her Tolkien image of Elves all but shattered by the rejuvenating mana massaging her foot. The treatment, Sanari had promised, would have her feeling weightless for weeks.

Earlier, once she had changed into something light and scant, Sanari and Zestari had invited them into the upper viewing room, then wood shaped twin spa beds. If Gwen wanted to know about Elven culture, Sanari had cooed, she may as well learn while relaxing.

"Don't worry, Magus Edwards." The bell-like laughter of Zestari made Ollie hyperconscious of his Englishmen's feet. "We have a pedicure service as well. Why do you think us Elves are so light on our feet?"

Ollie half-cried into the moth-silk towel. His skin was beet-red, both from the female hands touching his skin and from his loosely dressed companion's matching moans.

Gwen studied the woodgrains on the floor as Sanari's fingers worked its way up her calves. "Are many Elves 'Vessels'?"

"Only select individuals may attract the Guardian's favour during their cycle of service as Wardens or as Druids. Even for us, Vessels are rare and precious. You must be truly special among your kin, Magus Song."

Gwen cringed from the overt flattery but continued her enquiry. "Sanari, can you enlighten me on how the Hvítálfar see Humans?"

Ollie rose to protest her political line of enquiry, only to have Zestari arrest his neck and push his face against the towel.

"Of course, we're allies," Sanari replied. "Our kindred and yours have shared this land since before the cult of the Nazarene arrived. In recent years, I suppose things grew strained somewhat. Do not fret, Trawsfynydd is neutral ground. There are no politics here; the highest Accords protect this grove."

"So Trawsfynydd's a DMZ?" Gwen almost choked on her own saliva. "You say there's peace, but what about Ysbyty Ifan?" Gwen recalled from her Triffid briefing. "Wasn't that recent? And close to here?"

"An unfortunate skirmish. The Elders have marked it as the result of a misunderstanding. No Elf from the grove died, so the matter was forgotten." Sanari switched to Gwen's other leg. "Your kin-folk can be as fickle as the Svartálfar."

"I'll agree to that." Gwen assumed the worst, curious that Magister Greyson's tragedy was to her attendant's eyes a mere skirmish. "Another question. My mentor at Peterhouse said that I was to meet with someone here, an instructor. Any ideas?"

Sanari relocated her fingers to Gwen's neck and shoulders. "I can ask for you, though I have no doubt someone from Tryfan will wish to pay homage to the Devourer of Shenyang during your stay."

"You know of me?" Gwen grunted as powerful fingers kneaded her shoulders.

"We're a trade station," the Elf reminded her once more. "Information is an important commodity in itself. That and you're famous, Magus Song, not because you're the Devourer, but because you're an heir of Lord Kilroy."

"You know of my Master?"

"Most do. His death sent shockwaves of grief through the trees," Sanari replied. "Lady Sufina was well-loved as well. The ties that bind Lord Kilroy to Snowdonia are as many as the threads on a Weaver's web."

"That's... incredible." Gwen twisted her upper body until she faced her attendant. "What did Master do here?"

"He was first a student, then a friend, an ally, a teacher and finally a protector." Sanari's gaze filled with benevolence.

Gwen tightened her moth-silk robes. "Did you know my Master?"

"Not especially, no."

"Have you ever spoken to him?"

"I have."

Gwen felt her breath catch in her throat. The possibility that she and this ageless woman were connected by Henry Kilroy across species, continents and time, was beyond incredible.

"What... was Master like? Back then?"

"Young, then old." Sanari's response was abstract. "He was Human."

Gwen paused at the thought.

Thirty years was a lifetime in the eyes of Humankind but to Elves, with their lifespan at minimum ten-times that of her species, were three decades not a short sabbatical in comparison?

Sanari continued. "Magus Song, I should inform you that Lord Kilroy has an abode up on Tryfan, where the Sixth Circle commences. To my knowledge, it is untouched since his passing."

"Could I access it?" Gwen felt such longing that before she realised, she was holding Sanari's hand.

"I will make enquiries for you, Magus Song."

"You have my thanks, Sanari." Gwen's voice grew muffled. That she would find so welcoming a boon in a holiday home was wholly unexpected. "If there's any way I can thank you, be it Crystals or rare materials..."

"No need." Sanari smiled serenely. "Please give me some time."

Gwen nodded, returning her cheek to the spa bed.

"Errrrrgghnnn—" Not far from her, Ollie bit his towel. The young man rose to speak— then Zestari fell upon his shoulder blades.

Poor sod, Gwen felt sympathy for her Praelector's internal cries of alarm. Lady Grey must be working the poor bastard down to the bone.

The Council of the Ninth Circle took place near the zenith of the Elder Tree at Tryfan; a myth locale that, together with its brethren, had inspired fanciful lore-names like "Yggdrasil". Unfortunately, the Nords, though creative in their interpretation of Elven chronicles, had gendered a misnomer.

In Sylvan lore, there was no need to differentiate the "one" Elder Tree from another. All had come from the seed of the world, and all were one. To give each a name would be as foolish as individually naming the crowning branches of a world-topping redgum. To outsiders, the Elder Elves rarely gifted the truth of the World Trees, and so the subject had grown obfuscated by myth and mystery.

"Hierophant Initiate Sanari..." bowed the Wardens standing guard beside the Arch of the Triumphant. "Welcome back to Tryfan's Embrace."

"May her bloom be eternal." Sanari inclined her chin. "Where is Primach Vulmari?"

"The council awaits your pleasure in the Ninth Circle."

"Good." Sanari proceeded past the Wardens without a glance.

Above and around the Hierophant-Initiate, the liminal subspace of the Hvítálfar's home stretched upward, tapping directly into the Plane of Radiance, providing Tryfan's World Tree with an inexhaustible source of life and vitality, banishing all notions of darkness.

Sanari willed her clothes to change, its fabrics growing thicker and more articulate until it covered her arms and legs with long, flowering fabrics resembling the petals of exotic flowers found on the canopy.

Nearer the towering roots of Tryfan's tree, empathic vines growing upon the thick bark entwined, forming an emerald threshold just as Sanari passed, transporting her from the understory to the emergent layer.

Time and distance momentarily lost meaning, then the Initiate arrived upon the canopy of Elfhome's ninth pocket plane. Once past the threshold, Sanari drew in a deep breath of vitality-rich air, expanding her lungs until pain tickled her diaphragm and her head felt light. Gradually, she expelled the inferior oxygen of the exterior world.

Once naturalised, Sanari proceeded down the branches toward the meeting place of Snowdonia's apex Enclave. At the path's end, the Bellflower Hall was cloaked in pale cobalt, with its interior open-air and filled with light.

Herein gathered sat the Tryfan Enclaves' Ninth Circle Council, ready to discuss the matter of the Mageocracy's emergent Sobel.

"Hierophant-Initiate Sanari—" The gathered rose in their respective chairs; each positioned to represent their irrespective concourse of interests.

At the head of the table, bathed in light, sat the Bloom in White, her Ladyship the Tongue of Tryfan, regal in her pale, pearlescent robes, still as a statue and untouched by time.

To her right sat the Lords of the Sixth and Third Circle, Isilynor and Esta, anxious in their colourful ceremonial carapace. As the Träälvor Lords of the lower realms, their impatience spoke loudly of their limited lifespans.

To the White Lady's right, Primach Vulmari, Sanari's instructor and blood-kin stood stoic and silent beside Arch-Warden Eldrin, a warrior faithfully wedded to his crow-black battle mantle.

Finally, opposite the party of Elves sat their guest from the realm of men, one Duke of Norfolk, Mycroft Ravenport, aptly wrapt in a sable garb of velvet cloth.

"Primach Vulmari, Hierophant Eldrin, Lord Isilynor, Lady Esta, your Grace." Sanari bowed her head. "And my Lady Solana— Blessed be the Flower of Tryfan."

"We art blessed," the Elves answered in turn.

The Human nodded. "May Tryfan bloom eternal."

Each member took their place on the circular table while Sanari entered its spacious centre to face her superiors.

"How is our guest?" Hierophant Eldrin was the first to speak. The outpost of Trawsfynydd lay within his jurisdiction.

"Relaxed and happy, for now. The child has asked after Lord Kilroy."

"As she should." Eladrin shifted in his battle plate. "Arch-Druid Kilroy was an honourary member of the Circle Council. It is right that his Human Apprentice should inherit his abode and receive our benediction."

"Eladrin, patience," the Primach of the Enclave, Vulmari Vagolorithil, interjected before the Warden could continue. "Sanari, tell us about the Void sorceress, what have you confirmed?"

"She's a Vessel," Sanari stated without ambiguity.

"And who might her Patron be?" Hierophant Eldrin raised a perfectly arched brow, the stag-horns protruding from his helm tilted left and right.

Sanari shook her head, indicating she did not know. "Her Patron did not respond to my probing— though I can confirm its Essence is ancient."

"Ancient? Older than Tryfan's Guardian?" The haughty profile of Isilynor, Lord of the Sixth Circle, leaned forward. "You expect us to believe that such a being married a Human Vessel?"

The round table grew silent.

"Lord Mycroft, might you provide some clarity?" Hierophant Eladrin's ageless voice drifted across the Council's august chamber.

"I fear I came here to find answers." The Human noble cleared his throat, then replied. "In Gwen's dossier, I have spared no intrigue. My purpose is to request an instructor; if you will recall. It would be both foolish and fruitless to withhold information that your august selves will discern once her training begins."

Lady Esta's eyes narrowed, reminding Sanari of the monstrous orchid mantis sometimes found in the upper canopy. "Find her an instructor, and we shall find out? Do you take us for the gullible Dökkálfar, dear Duke?"

"Then shall I tell her to return home?" Duke of Norfolk held his own against the Lords of the Circle. "Cambridge is but an hour's flight and a Teleport away."

Both Isilynor and Esta stared rapiers at the Duke.

The audacity of Humans continued to surprise Sanari, who was in her fifth century of service. With their lives so threatened by mortality, each Human act was a plunge into uncertainty, whose fruit may never be tasted by the executor. Had Sanari not volunteered to be tenured at Trawsfynydd as one of the grove's caretakers, she would have never comprehended how Humans saw the world. What differentiated Man and Elf, Sanari had discerned, was the understanding of immediacy, that strange and indescribable feeling of impending action. For some of her folk, such as Isilynor and Esta, the very notion that a decision must be made, here and now, filled them with agitation.

"Good. Return the child to London." Lady Esta of the Third Circle raised a bejewelled hand. "Sobel was an ill-bearing fruit we all regretted. Need I remind his lordship the living blight is still on the loose. Why should Tryfan risk a second Sobel? Must Lord Kilroy perish in vain?"

"I agree with Lady Esta," Isilynor offered his support. "Mycroft, you forget that your kin art mere mercenaries under Tryfan's employ. One loose monstrosity is quite enough."

"There won't ever be another Sobel." The Duke's voice took on a threatening air at Isilynor's undisguised reminder of Humanity's place within the Accord. The man leaned back, his fingers forming an arch. "Not if Magus Song receives the proper aid. If she does not—"

"Enough, Mycroft." Hierophant Eldrin silenced the Duke with a gesture. "Sanari, you've marked the child. Tell us of your findings."

A room full of golden eyes focused on Sanari. More than the scrutiny of her superiors; however, it was Ravenport's dusky irises, so grey and lifeless-seeming, that made her follicles crawl.

"Gentle Lord. Esteemed Council." Sanari once more breathed in the mana rich air. "As stated, Magus Song is the lesser Vessel of an Elder Being. Upon contact, I spoke at length to the child, eventuating in the Rite of Rejuvenation. I have found that her Astral Body differs from Human Mages, as the Essence of her being consists of chimeric additions; though the Elder Being's Essence has suppressed all potential revolt. Of these pilfered Essences, thousands exist, their tiny presences layered like sediments within her Astral Soul. When our Essence twined, there was no response from her Patron. Further examination has allowed me to conclude that her Lord Spirit does not inhabit her body, not yet, nor is there a Conduit present."

"How is she receiving aid then?" Lady Esta demanded.

"From within herself."

"A Changeling, then." Primach Vulmari touched a finger to his forehead. "You're brought us a right mess, Mycroft. Those separate, lesser Essences, I take it they're the number of lives she's consumed. Are you certain the child isn't a second Sobel?"

"— A Patron as old or older than our Guardian…" Arch-Warden Eldrin contemplated the possibilities behind Sanari's words. "A primordial being? An untethered serpent from when the world was young?"

"An answer I would like to know myself." Ravenport splayed both hands to simulate his helplessness. "The girl knows nothing, as I said. She believes that she's on an expenses-paid holiday—"

"As a reward for eradicating the Triffidus infestation," Sanari's Arch-Warden informed the Council. "Though you have your doubts, I should remind all present that Lord Ravenport has yet to disappointed us and that his continued service is necessary for Tryfan's continued bloom."

The Lords of the Sixth and Third Circle scoffed.

"A service that warrants reciprocation." Ravencroft turned not to his conversation partners, but to her ladyship, the Bloom in White. In Sanari's eyes, the act was the definition of insolence, though as Vulmari and Eldrin remained mum, so did the other members of the Council. "As Tryfan has faith in my service, so I have faith in our Elven allies not to disappoint so meagre a request."

The gathered Elves looked toward the esteemed Tongue of Tryfan.

"I do not support the instruction of the girl." Isilynor raised his hand.

"Neither do I," Lady Esta concurred. "I will, however, allow her access to Lord Kilroy's suite. His abode is within the domain of my Circle, and in his demise, death now pollutes its sanctum. Were it not for Lady Sulfina's sake; I would have had the space expelled back into the aether."

"Well, I support the child's instruction." Eldrin, Ex-Hierophant and Arch-Warden of the Enclave, nodded at Ravenport.

"As do I." The Druids' Primach cocked his chin. "I wish to converse with her Patron."

"Then your ladyship has the final word, as is proper." The Human Duke bowed.

Lady Solana, the Tongue of Tryfan, the speaker and the voice of the World Tree, first Vessel of its Guardian, parted the pink petals of her imperious lips to deliver the verdict. In her presence, the others lowered their heads.

"Eldrin, bring her to me," the Bloom in White delivered her judgment. "We shall not grant instruction as the Raven has requested— not until the child has proven herself suitable for the Accord, as her Master had been."

Sanari glanced at the Human Duke. She could see the man's lips tittering on the edge of protest, but in the end, his reverence superseded his Human capacity for rudeness.

"I obey the Tongue of Tyran." The Human Duke arched his back. "May its white flowers bloom eternal."

Sanari exhaled as the tension bleed from the room. Now, she must return to the lower realms and its foetid air to deliver the good news.

While minds multitudes older than Gwen's puzzled their heads, Gwen grew perplexed over tea.

"Elf cakes." Gwen cut into her delicate offerings, each shaped like exotic wildflowers too beautiful to be butchered by her silver knives, feeling as though she wanted a refund on her Tolkien tour. "Not Lembas Bread, but berry tarts and citrus meringue?"

"The Hvítálfar are famous for their obsession with perfection." Ollie sat opposite, so relaxed that his hair appeared thicker and his body language ten-years younger. "It was French Magisters who first introduced the idea of desserts made from flora to the Cévennes Enclave. It grew to be immensely popular among the Elves, and now they make better dessert than we do."

Unlike the often greasy pastry items that featured prominently on Human menus, the Elves' selection was much like themselves— light and airy, with a delicate texture that teased the palate.

Gwen stretched, distending her limbs like a cat's until her toes curled. The sun was warm, the air fresh, the view was a million HDMs, the tarts were sweet, the tea fragrant, and her company was tolerable.

Yet, despite the perfection of the moment, the disarming tranquillity was disturbing. Was it the quietness? Gwen wondered. She was an urbanite; give her a cafe, loud traffic, endless streams of men and women hurrying to work and a hobo ranting about Jesus saves, and she would feel right at home.

"You ever feel like something's going to happen and you just can't relax?" Gwen asked her Praelector.

"What? Why?" Ollie bolted straight at once, all signs of happiness evaporating at once. "What's happening? Did you do something? What did you do now?"

"Nothing," Gwen chided her prudish House-Brother. "How rude."

"Gwen, can't you just let up for once?" Ollie begged her. "We can't offend the Hvítálfar. Not even Lady Grey can save you from them."

"And just how would I have an opportunity to offend them?" Gwen scowled back. "Is this about what happened at lunch again? That buffet wasn't properly stocked. I swear to God—"

Chirp! Chirp!

A cicada-shaped bell announced the arrival of a guest, interrupting Gwen's impassioned self-defence of her gluttony.

"Come in!" she announced.

The lithe form of Sanari appeared at the doorway, her ageless face a flower of friendship. "Magus Song, I bring good tidings."

"Is this about Master?" Gwen stood in her robe. Opposite, Ollie looked like a deer caught in the path of a Lightning Bolt.

"Indeed." Sanari bowed deeply. "Our esteemed Lady, the Bloom in White, would like to speak with you in private regarding Lord Kilroy's estate."

"PUFFFFT!" Ollie spat out a half-sipped mouthful of tea all over the cakes. "The Speaker of Tryfan? The Immortal Bloom herself? Gwen, no! You— This— FU— Oh my God!"

Gwen stepped away from her embarrassing Praelector. "I am forever grateful."

"NO!" Ollie begged from below. "You can't offend her, Gwen. She's the spiritual leader of the Hvítálfar! One word from her and— look, just know that you'll be speaking with someone no less august than our Majesty herself. Your etiquette is barely passable! You haven't even passed your decorum class! You curtsy like a drunk Ork and eat like a starved Mermen, what if..."

Caught in the middle of Ollie's rant, Gwen grew uncertain.

"Do not fret," Sanari promised with a smile. "There exists no kinder and wiser being than our Lady... certainly not outside this mundane mass of the Prime Material you so called London. As for you, Magus Edward, rest assured that there exists no ambiguity as to Magus Song's attendance. To refuse would be a dire insult..."

 

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