Gwen's immediate gut-instinct was to deliver the diatribe that her Master's age was "impossible!". But then she recalled Walken's gaslighting, and that her present conversation partner wasn't speaking from hearsay, but delivering a first-hand gospel.
"Though it may belie belief, your Master was unimpressive at first, though through no fault of his own," Solana's voice was melodic and pleasant. "The stability and applicability of Morden's prototype Imperial Sorcery, a method he experimented on those of his bloodline, suffered from growing pains. The Arch-Mage himself could access each of the Prime Elements, but no scion had inherited potential. For a Mage on a mission to change magic, the loss of his craft was one of his dire fears."
"What happened to Morden?" Gwen asked.
"He came to us," Solana stated the obvious. "He wasn't the first to be invited into the Accord, and he certainly wasn't the last."
"May as I ask what the Accord is?"
"You may not." Solana politely halted Gwen's line of enquiry.
"Right." Gwen wondered if she could ask why not. "Pray, continue."
"Henry began life as an unimpressive Water Mage, a noviciate in Suilven, where Morden had spell-shaped the mountain into a Dungeon. The Arch-mage ran an academy there in its depth, though most of the Acolytes were either his kin or tributes from the Scottish Clans and their Irish allies. Adolescence was a difficult time for Henry, for Morden's methods of uplifting scions leaned heavily on mutual competition and survival of the fittest. True to his brutal purpose, the Arch-Mage preferenced students whose violence and conviction was necessary for repelling the rapidly expanding Mageocracy. For this purpose, Henry's talent was late-blooming. When eventually his Affinity for chimeric-sorcery such as Demi-human magic came to light, it earned the ire of his siblings."
"Fortunate for them, your Master's predilection for pacifism ill-matched his sibling's ambitions. When he was old enough to quest away from Suilven, which I would venture to guess some two Human decades, your Master did just that. He took on the maiden name of his mother, from Clan Kilroy, and began a journey throughout the known world."
"During his aimless wandering, Henry awaken to the promised bloodline powers of his progenitor, venturing far and wide at a time when Human sorcery was still esoteric and extraordinary. From decade to decade, he lived through battles and sieges, fortunes both weal and woe, living in perpetual conflict against men, Magical Beasts, Demi-folk, and even the Elder kin on several occasions. Those tales I shall not relay, but sufficient to say, Henry survived disastrous pitfalls, betrayals, misfortunes by fire and field and near-deaths by the hundreds. Once, he was captured by Svartálfar in that lightless Enclave in Amazonia and escaped by Polymorphing into a Toucan. He rode with Centaurs in Mongolia, hunted Ogres in Zambia, drank wine with the Elemental Princes of long-perished Persia, and was for a year an indentured thrall of a Vampire in Romania. He loved to tell tales, and for us Hvítálfar who rarely ventured from our sacred Grove, his tales made him popular and welcome. With relish, Henry told us that in Jotunheimen, he met our Ljósálfar cousins, that their Grove was white and fair and touched the heavens with its pale branches. In their fair company, he fought the Storm Jötunn and drank a stolen Elixir brewed by their maidens from the gall of White Dragons. In a latter decade, he resided within the Dwarven Halls of Bavaria, helping to map the Murk, bumping his head in the underworld's rough quarries and forging a deep friendship with the master crafters of Deepholm. And of course, who could forget that Henry spent a spell in Singapore, hunting the Mermen that preyed on the fishermen there, ultimately meeting his partner, Lady Sufina."
Solana spoke without pause, her breath coming in light and full of nostalgic remembrance. Beside her, Gwen listened with rapt fascination.
"With each decade that transpired, Henry's craft grew. With each Element awakened to his Astral Soul, he came closer to becoming Morden's true heir. But of course, far from his prowess with sorcery— it was his web of alliances that made him such a threat to his siblings."
"So... the true treasure was the friends Master made along the way..." Gwen added drily.
"Well observed," Solana agreed with a heartfelt nod. "When finally Henry came to us nearer the end of Victoriana's reign, his exploits were well known among Magic users. Even our Träälvor kin on the mainland spoke nothing but praise for his aid in restoring balance to their Groves and in fending off the encroachment from the Eastern Undead. Eventually, the Council deemed Henry important enough to participate in the Accord— and so he arrived at Tryfan, as foretold."
"It was here that he met his dying grandsire, who had abandoned his worldly affairs to remain in the shelter of the World Tree, hoping to extend his life. Here in the Grot, Morden offered the 'runt' who had rejected his surname his legacy. What Morden failed to comprehend in his isolation was that among your Master's friends, most were from the Mageocracy itself, his mortal enemies. That and your Master loathed the 'might makes right ideology' espoused by Morden's remaining scions."
"Henry Kilroy's stone-hearted denial of his grandfather was what rang the Arch-Mage's death knell. It's peculiar how mortality unmakes a man. When Morden first came to us, his noble dignity was enough to fill the Sun Sanctum. On the day he expired, he was howling with rage, robbed of all sense by senility."
"In the decade that followed, Morden's succession wars rocked the upper stratum of England's sorcerous society. There's even a Dungeon named after his lost academy— Morden's Magnificient Mausoleum. Ultimately, with Kilroy aiding his friends from the Mageocracy, Morden's legacy was not only taken but integrated into Humanity's need for a way to mass-produce sorcerors— and so, the Imperial Magic System came to be."
"I beg your pardon, your Grace." Gwen raised her hand. "My House Mistress, the Marchioness of Ely, says that the Hvítálfar had a hand in that."
"The succession Dungeon?" Solana asked.
"The basis of the IMS," Gwen clarified. "Did the Hvítálfar contribute to its development?"
"Ha!" The Bloom in White chuckled. "Very perceptive, but I am afraid only a member of the Accord may know the answer to that question."
"I see… " Gwen curbed her curiosity.
The Lady remained jovial. "Understandably, Henry's donation of the priceless trove of sorcerous invocations from one of Humanity's principal Arch-Mages placed him firmly at the heart of the Mageocracy. In this way, he found a calling of sorts while travelling between Europe's institutions, pushing the idea of a unified system of magic, supported by 'Towers', as his grandsire had envisioned, to bring together humankind's magical minds. "
"Such lofty ideals naturally saw equal opposition. Henry wasn't the only one who had the idea of unifying Humanity under a common banner. In direct opposition to Henry was the Disciples of the Eighth School of Magic— the School of Necromancy."
"Holy shit— " Gwen's green eyes grew wide. "Pardon the Dwarven, your Grace; Necromancy was an official SCHOOL of Magic? "
The Elven priestess waited for Gwen to recover. "For our friends in the Mageocracy, I shall abstain from certain details. Suffice it to say, your kin's theocratic schism was the result of existential conflict between the School of Necromancy and the Primary Schools of the IMS. For the Hvítálfar, any magic that prevents natural renewal is the sorcery of heresy and blasphemy. Yet, the "Craft" endures as one of the two 'origin' sorceries of your kin, for death and the exploitation of life has always been a part of Humanity's ascension. For your ancestors, Necromancy had come as naturally and unbidden as the belief-sorcery you call Faith Magic, and indeed, the two were seldom performed apart."
Gwen took another petal of flower cake to calm her nerves, her mind reeling at the epiphanic realisation. To think that the vile sorcery she had witnessed in Northern China was not some ancient evil awakened from a tomb but the driving force of human civilisation.
"In the Great War that followed, your Master laid the groundwork for his Towers and his Path of Pacifism. Though his participation was indirect, I do not doubt that Henry suffered. In the 'war to end all Necromancy', many of his colleagues died vainglorious deaths, especially the young and the impressionable who were told to fight for Humanity. A few of his companions had to perish twice once the Necromancers reanimated them. By the war's end, millions of lives were extinguished, not even our kin were spared. In the Eastern Mainland, a dozen Groves in Belovezhskaya was turned to service the 'Craft'."
"After that, we had hoped your kin would break for breath." Solana sighed. "But Humanity is a race that feeds on death and destruction. After an eye-blink spent rebuilding, yet another conflict broke out across the continent, this time fuelled by something far more primal and instinctual."
"Geo-political escalation?" Gwen ventured a guess.
"Greed." Solana shrugged her shoulders. "With the IMS finally triumphing over both Necromancy and Faith Magic, your kind ushered in another so-called Golden Age. Post-war, many of Europe's Demi-races had been weakened by the Undead, leaving their resources ripe for plunder. According to Henry, innovations in Magitech, such as the ease offered by the supermassive sea-faring vessels, enabled mass migrations and wide-spread colonisation. Forgive my consternation, child, but your race spread into our world like a fungal infestation. If we measured the losses suffered by the denizens of Terra, your kin's imperialism would outperform the Undead by magnitudes."
"Yeah, I can imagine that," Gwen acknowledged with ambivalence. "Somebody wiser than I once said that only when the last oak has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will Humanity comprehend that one cannot eat Crystals. I think there's a lot of sustainability management the Mageocracy needs to introduce. Corporate governance too."
Lady Solana clapped thrice in succession to express her agreement with Gwen's summation of the Human race. "During the Undead recovery, Henry took on a much more hands-on role in directing events in the outside world. His visitations to Tryfan grew less frequent as his duties grew burdensome. When war broke out again, we Hvítálfar all but closed our portals to all parties. This time, fearing for our Träälvor kin on the mainland, ultimatums were delivered to your Queens and Chancellors and Chairmen that we would break Humanity's back if a single Grove fell to your wanton appetite for conflict."
"From the fact that we're still here, I take it the warring factions took great care?"
"They did, but still, your war's brutality shook us to our Core. This time, what your kin exacted on one another made the Undead Plague seem kind in comparison. From what Henry told us, tens of millions more folk perished. Your Master, who had dreamt so long of restoring peace, was shattered by the aftermath."
"Did more of Master's friends perish?"
"Far worse," Solana said sadly. "When Henry returned to us, he was changed. Fearing for the mind of Morden's heir, I spoke in private with Sufina; the Dryad lamented that this time, the war was no longer a clash of sorcery, but resource and politics. In the course of Henry's friends murdering one another, your Master had been caught in the middle, with both sides claiming him as their own. In the end, he watched companions he had known for half-a-century perish without lending his power to either. According to Sufina, their surviving kin hated Henry for his neutrality and blamed him for their loss."
Her Master's ubiquitous melancholy flashed across Gwen's inward eye. In light of this new information, she grew tickled by the irony that she was learning more about history from an Elf Queen than any Human history book.
"I think I am starting to see where Master got the idea for the Middle Faction from," Gwen muttered to herself, shaken to her core by the possibility that one day, two people she loved might engage in a deathmatch— and that both would turn to her with desperation and demand her aid. "What did Master do after the Pan-European War?"
Solana exhaled. "Henry Kilroy did not grace the Tree of Tryfan again, not until Vynssarion's madness poisoned the Prime Material."
"Ancient Vynssarion is… or was, the Guardian Wyrm of the Black Sea. It was he who brought on the Beast Tide."
Gwen's fingers twitched. Finally, the culprit behind the trouble facing Humanity today had a name! And did the Bloom say "Guardian"? Did that mean the Black Dragon had the same job as her hubby, Tyfanevius? Did this mean the source of the Beast Tide was a case of Humans logging too deep and greedily, only in place of the Balrog, they found a pissed-off Dragon?
"Could I ask—"
"You may not."
"— because I am not a part of the Accord?"
"That, and because there is nought else to be said. You are likely more familiar with your Master's exploits in the wake of Vynssarion's madness," Solana stated. "Henry did return to us just once, though this time he had a young bride in his arms, a Void Sorceress."
Gwen felt her hair stand on end. "Can I ask..."
Solana waited for her finish.
"Right, Accord." Gwen leaned back, taking a moment to appreciate the story of her Master's life. Henry was a very long-lived, very busy man, but in the end, so much of his ambition died with him, bequeathed to Gunther, Alesia and herself. In that way, her Master had relived the same karmic route taken by Morden.
"Thank you for the story, your Grace. May I enquire how I may be of service?" Satisfied, at least for now, Gwen moved the conversation forward.
"We would like to verify your Patron— and its intentions," Solana said. "This is very important for our continued amicability."
"I welcome the examination." Gwen nodded. "But I hope you'll believe me when I say that Almudj does whatever it wants, whenever it wants. I am stumped in so far as communication with it goes."
"I am sure it cares for you greatly, child. Though I must ask, where or what is your Conduit? How are you drawing on 'Almudj's' Essence without it?"
"Maybe...." Gwen touched a finger an inch below her heart. She thought about her chimeric Astral Body. "Maybe… the magic was inside me all along?"
"That is not how a Vessel's contract functions." Solana appeared perturbed by her casual ignorance. "A Conduit is a token of a kinship. Where is yours?"
"A long time ago, Almudj had given me one of its Rainbow Scales…" Gwen explained how she had received the scale, then briefly debriefed the High Priestess on her apocalyptic baptism at Sydney. "… after the Grot disappeared, I had no way of seeking it out. Would Almudj know where its scale has gone?"
Gwen sighed. If only Conduit items from Mythics possessed a "Find my iPhone" function.
Over the cakes and ices, Solana studied her with her golden irises. With mindful patience, Gwen marvelled at the perfection of the Bloom in White's Demi-divine form. The Elf was so perfect that she seemed to Gwen more so a manifested ideal than a physical being.
After a brief lull in the conversation, her fellow Vessel raised a delicate hand. "I see. If there is no recourse, then we shall probe your Patron by hailing it directly. Take my hand, child."
Gwen did as was told.
The sanctum pulsed. At once, Gwen sensed the flow of life beneath the moss transmuted through her tender toes, even now digging into the plush, emerald growth. From the gathering mana, Gwen understood that the all-enveloping World Tree of Tryfan sustained not only the Sun Sanctum but the pocket plane itself.
The yew overhead grew verdant, sprouting new leaves as the vital energy summoned by Tongue of Tryfan coursed through her body, slowly forming a viridescent pool of Essence in her hand.
"From your hand?" Gwen's cheeks grew scarlet at the vengeful visitation of karma. To think that so suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot and that she would be the Dede. It was one thing to make a duck drink from her hand, but for herself to lap a puddle of Essence swimming in the palm of a Demi-divine goddess?
"Partake," the Elf commanded. "Tis the Elixir of life."
There was a barely a ladle's worth of Essence, though cradled in the Bloom's hands, its opaque surface appeared depthless. With her hands touching the Elf's, Gwen took a deep breath, filled her lungs until her sides stung, then dived in.
Though the collated pool was tiny, Gwen felt as though caught in the power of a receding maelstrom.
Untethered, she plunged into that viscous, viridian billabong, pushing herself deeper, stroke by broke, her cells awakening to the passage of a distant time. Her lungs grew gills, breathing not oxygen, but life itself, opening like flower petals as the skin of her bosom parted, revealing blades of tightly packed leaves, their membranes inhaling and exhaling, photosynthesising the primordial air.
Her proud white stems fused, turning tanned and sturdy, her bones metamorphosing into one strand of continuous fibre.
Oh, sweet Eden! Came the exultant thought as the solar winds rustled her leaves, filling her with an unbidden, unspeakable joy. The beauty of understanding suffused her welded spine, now one unbroken petiole, engendering an eyeless comprehension of the world, an in-sucking genesis of air and atmosphere, emerald and flamboyant; her tips just breaching the firmament and her roots digging at earth's core.
She was a part of an impossibly tall Tree.
And below its Plane-spanning bower, where its wall-like roots coiled through the squelch and peat of the world's soil— she saw the sleeping Serpent, her Guardian, her protector.
Sleek and coiled the Serpent slept in its cold dark den of no breath nor light with one eye watching the world. Its twin nostrils, clad with viridian scales in cascading hues from lime to juniper, inhaled the scent of the intruder. Soundlessly, it stirred; its colossal tongue slithered out to taste her presence. Concurrently, the ocular scale protecting its rotund orb of metallic gold slowly retracted, revealing a slitted pupil as depthless as the Void.
Tyfanevius— the name came to her in a flash.
Consort to Solana.
Guardian of the Tree of Tryfan.
Gwen recoiled from the Serpent's alien gaze, obeying an ancient reflex as old as human history.
The snake opened its mouth to speak—
From the cloudless firmament came a sound of sudden thunder, its rippling blow transmuting through every fibre of her woodland being. Across the rift of space and time, her slumbering kin had arrived to accost whatever had dared to penetrate her Astral Body.
Hiss! The Serpent below the tree spat at the heavens. It did not like strangers.
HISSAK! Came the reply, filling the space of no space.
From Tjukurpa katutja ngarantja, from the unformed place, free from time, free from land, where the old ones sleep, where the old songs sang the world into being, Almudj proclaimed its displeasure.
The sky split.
The earth shook.
From within the abyssal crag of heaven, a rainbow-hued head emerged, making minute the opposing Mythic.
"Stop!" Gwen screamed at her kin, though as a tree, she had no mouth with which to make the sound. "Almudj! This one's friendly!"
Almudj opened its mouth.
A salmon-pink tongue, forked and as large as Tyfanevius himself distended with disapproval.
From below, the jade-green viper performed likewise.
Their tongues touched.
"Almudj!" Gwen raised her non-existent voice. "Friend, FRIEND!"
From the heavens, the sound of rumbling thunder tolled once more.
Almudj is proper cheeky, Gwen recalled.
And Almudj did not like strangers.
Almudj will attack strangers!
Gwen opened her eyes in just time to see a branch the size of a semi upturn the plush moss like a plough.
In the Amazon, she had torn apart trees and set whole hills alight with lightning. Now, in a swell of karma, she bore witness to the result of magical thunder striking the inner manifestation of a World Tree inside the sacred home of an ageless Elf she could not afford to offend.
"Arrrgh—" the Bloom in White shuddered.
While her hostess steadied herself, Gwen saw in her mind's eye a vision of London overgrown into a verdant forest, its citizens hunted by zealous Hvítálfar Wardens conducting a holy war of retribution. "One man for every fallen leaf!" the Elves would cry out. "One shire for every twig!"
She began to wonder if Ollie would prefer death over explaining to Lady Grey how World War III came to be when he allowed Gwen to visit the Grot. If she was to die here, Gwen lamented, then what a waste it was to spend so much time on the Isle of Dogs. The more fearful she grew, the more she felt hollow, her body weightless. Would Evee be sad? She thought. Would Yue or Alesia threaten to burn down Tryfan?
Opposite, Solana steadied her breathing, her hair frayed, and her appearance the spitting image of a thunderstruck goddess.
Not far, the unspent energy from Almudj's Barbanginy continued to erupt from the stricken branch, bursting into emerald fire. The wet wood, combined with the bleeding sap, sent plumes of choking smoke into the once perfect air of the Sun Sanctum.
A dozen portals flashed opened nearer the sanctum's edge.
Elven Wardens, dozens of them in that insectile carapace the Elves used for war, leapt into the fray. Some carried bows; others had glaive-wands; all were ready to render Gwen into mulch.
With complete comprehension of her present circumstance, Gwen forced her eyes to water. "Lady Solana, I am very, very sorry. Can we fix the tree? I can provide the Essence."
The Lady raised a hand.
The Wardens' advance halted.
To Gwen's immense relief, the ring of death disappeared as quickly as it appeared.
"Your…" Solana appeared lost for words. Her dress was no longer pure and pale but charred at the edge where she had warded away the Barbanginy's initial eruption.
"... Almudj," The Bloom in off-white continued. "It said it does not like strangers."
"… no, it does not."
"Your Patron is old," Solana continued. "Older than when we came to this Plane. There is little wonder it cared not for diplomacy."
"Right." Gwen wasn't sure what the Lady meant, nor was she in any mood to refute her hypothesis. "Your Grace, are you alright? Are you injured anywhere?"
"Almudj is as old, older than Tyfanevius, as old as the Tree, possibly, or older…" Bemused by the outcome, Solana's brows grew knitted. "If so, where's Almudj's tree? An untethered Serpent as ancient as Lord Alumdj should possess an abode to match its stature."
"I may know the answer to that…" Gwen recalled the viper-like Wyrm coiled at the base of the Tree of Tryfan and tried to imagine Almudj doing the same. "Almudj's currently having a soak in a desert lake, sleeping off Sobel's Black Sun. It's an incredibly beautiful mass of water. Is the tree important?"
"Always. There is always a tree, child," Solana announced with reverence. "And there is always a Serpent. Do you not know this?"
Gwen searched her mind for the mythos of her old world. Despite the Nordic premise, what Solana's present invocations reminded her of was a garden, a snake and a woman tempted to take a nibble.
Feeling as though standing upon a precipice of comprehension, Gwen studied Solana's face and listened to the timbre of the Elf's vocalised monologue with the special attention of a piano tuner.
"Is… Lord Tyfanevius upset at all?" Acutely, Gwen was sure she had stumbled upon one of her present world's certainties. From just that glimpse of Tryfan's Guardian, she understood that on a fundamental level, her future enterprises as Almudj's Vessel might involve a great many Serpents.
"He was surprised, that's all," Solana said, then closed her eyes in concentration. Acutely, Gwen felt another surge of vitality suffuse the Grot. Besides them, the flaming branch doused its flames; then the soft loam split to swallow the offending waste, stitching close with a wet squelch. In less time than it took for Gwen to plead for forgiveness, the upturned moss reintegrated into the sanctum, returning the scene to one of serenity.
When she opened her golden eyes, Solana was once more without blemish.
"At least now we know your Patron isn't one to be provoked," the Elf said. "That and we now have an idea who your Patron is."
"The Rainbow Serpent," Gwen added helpfully. "From down under. Is that going to be a problem?" Seeing that Solana wasn't going to pursue the matter of her shattered Grot, Gwen re-equipped her backbone.
"Not from Tryfan. Know that you have passed an important milestone, for we now know who your Patron is 'not'."
"Who or what did your Grace suspect?" Gwen cocked her head.
Solana remained mum.
"Right, Accord. Gotcha." Gwen wetted her lips. "Milady. May I be so impertinent to ask if there's still the possibility of acquiring a trainer from Tryfan? My House Mistress was particular that there would be an opportunity here."
"You wish to receive instruction?" The Bloom in White studied her once more. "In what sorcery? Elven Elementalism? Imperial Magic? Druidism?"
"Actually." Gwen pointed to the spot where the branch had fallen. "I was wondering if there's anyone who can teach me how to speak to Almudj, or at least use this…"
She circulated the Essence brimming within her body, pooling a handful on her palm.
"You can secrete Essence Elixirs?" Solana's face lit up. "You, who lack even a Conduit?"
"To tell the truth... I can ONLY secrete Essence Elixirs…" Gwen whispered conspiratorially.
Solana extended an elegant digit from an outstretched hand, then gingerly dipped her fingertip into Gwen's brimming pool of viridescence.
Gwen took a deep breath, bracing herself for yet another Barbanginy.
Thankfully, even after the Elf withdrew, no thunderous tempest appeared to split the yew in twain.
Her hostess flushed as the vitality leeched into her body. "This is... YOUR Essence. How strange. To produce Essence without training and lacking a Conduit— I should commend Sanari. You are a Changling."
Gwen willed her face to display an ardent desire for clarification.
"I have no doubt you are full of questions," Solana answered her enquiry blankly. "And indeed, we have answers, though they are neither free nor easily obtained."
"Understandable," Gwen boldly replied, finding comfort in the debit and credit the Elf leader noted. "Name your price, your Grace."
Solana laughed. "Henry said the same thing, once upon a time. If you wish our aid, then you will have to work through the official channels. Whether here or in your world, privilege is a boon and a burden, child. I would not presume to circumvent the rules the Circle Council has established."
"What must I do?"
"For that, you should converse with our Arch-Warden in Trawsfynydd. But let it not be said that we are unkind to Henry's Apprentice. For accompanying me today, I shall gift you two favours. One— you may visit your Master's abode in the Sixth Circle and recover his things. Two— I will ask the Arch-Warden Eldrin to grant you unfettered access to the Grove at Trawsfynydd so that you may further your enquiries through service. Now, before I send you to the Sixth Circle, do you have any more questions?"
"Just the one." Gwen cleared her throat. "The Accord. It seems to me that many of the answers I seek rest within its unspeakable boundaries. How is one 'invited' to join?"
"You are observant." Solana's expression grew stern. "But let me deliver a warning. The Accord binds the present state of your world— the Mageocracy, the Frontiers and the Wildlands. It wrote the history of your kind and mine. The secrecy is as much for our preservation as it is for yours. The knowledge that comes with being bound may bring elucidation— but not happiness nor consolation. Instead, for one in your position, excess knowledge brings only ruin. Your people have a saying, do they not? 'Beware, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge. Happy is the man who believes his hamlet to be the world—' Do you not wish to live happily and in harmony?"
Gwen met the Bloom in White's golden eyes head-on, not deterred but stirred by the High Priestess' warning. What the Bloom in White intimated, not even Gunther or Alesia could know. If acting on the Elves' behalf meant she would get to reveal what her Master did to Sobel, then she would swallow the bitter pill in her sibling-in-crafts' stead.
"Your Grace, I thank you for your love. That said, I've always been more of a big city girl and not a hamlet-dweller..."
"Oh?" Lady Solana raised both pencil-thin brows.
Gwen steeled her nerves. "What we should fear isn't too much knowledge, your Grace. Rather, the real danger lies in knowing too little. The illusion of knowledge, your Grace. THAT is the most dangerous thing of all."