A Bridge From Balor

by

CorbinJay

Chapter 13 - “Glenna is Possessed”

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Farrel was just settling down on his pillow when he was struck by an intuition as sharp and real as the point of a knife.

Glenna was in danger.

He clambered out of bed and pulled on a linen dressing gown as he rushed from the chamber. A moment later he was banging his fist on Sontoral's door.

“Sontoral, hurry! Glenna's in danger.”

The harper appeared, barechested, still wearing his breeches. “What has happened?”

“I don't know,” Farrel answered. “Quickly!”

They ran down the carpeted hallway and the stairs. Farrel flung opened the front door and shouted Glenna's name as he dashed out, the harper following close behind. The last trace of daylight was fading, and the air was wet and cold. They hurried down the path and stopped abruptly at its end.

Glenna was walking toward them along the bank of the pond.

“Where are you two going half-undressed?” she asked.

“We thought you were in danger.” Sontoral looked at Farrel.

“Danger? Why?” Glenna stood before them, a garland of rushes around her neck.

“It was ... nothing.” Farrel shrugged his shoulders. “Just a feeling.”

“A feeling, was it?” Glenna chuckled, took each of them by the arm and headed them back toward the cottage. “It is good to listen to your feelings, dear Farrel. And I'm sure their accuracy will improve with practice.”

“Aye, I hope so,” Sontoral grumbled.

But Farrel frowned, gazing with vague disquiet at the chain of rushes Glenna wore.

They returned to the house and retired to their separate rooms. Farrel crawled wearily back into bed.

He slept poorly, haunted by frightening dreams full of helplessness and despair. He woke often in the dark, a feverish worry creeping inside him. Finally, near dawn, a deeper exhaustion took hold and dragged him into a long and mercifully dreamless sleep.

He woke to a bright, clear afternoon. Standing at the window, her breathed the crisp air until the cold made him shiver and close the shutters.

Opening the tall wardrobe, he found it stocked with simple but well-made clothes. He dressed in breeches, hose, and soft-leather boots, with a full-sleeved linen shirt and wool surcoat. All the garments fit as though tailored for him. Farrel marvelled over this as he observed his reflection in the looking glass.

He smiled at himself wanly, then frowned and bent closer. Unfamiliar lines etched the skin around his eyes. He thought of the responsiblity that had fallen to him—and suddenly remembered the small green stone. He searched through his other clothes until he found the stone and placed it carefully in an inner pocket. Valin's wand he had left in the saddle of his horse. He had best retrieve that as well. Farrel sighed, touched by a pang of loneliness. He thought of Kerrawyn and wished she would join them soon.

Downstairs, he found the others in the parlor. Glenna sat on a velvet stool near the fire. Sontoral and Lady Bremmen glided gently back and forth on a cushioned swing suspended from the ceiling on what appeared to be flowering vines. The harper wore a silk dressing gown, and a green cap with a red feather. His fingers strummed the harp in time to the movements of the swing.

Lady Bremmen smiled gayly as Farrel entered. “Good day, Lord Farrel. I fear you missed the morning meal, but there is bread and fresh milk in the kitchen.”

“My thanks,” Farrel said. “When I have eaten, I would like to go to the stables. There are a few belongings I left with my horse.”

“Of course,” the Lady nodded. “I will take you there myself. But be prepared: it is a fair walk.”

“A fair walk on a fair day with a fair companion,” Sontoral expounded. “What could be more pleasant? All of us shall go.”

But Lady Bremmen grinned at him fondly and touched his arm. “Another time, dear harper, I will gladly walk in the woods with you. But today, I wish to speak with Lord Farrel alone.”

“Oh.” Sontoral tried to cover his disappointment with a burst of notes. “Another time, then. I treasure the anticipation.”

“I am most taken with your friend Sontoral,” Lady Bremmen confessed.

She and Farrel climbed a path that twisted up a hillside from the pond. The countess wore a cloak of purple velvet trimmed with white ermine, its collar setting off her raven black hair and long eyelashes.

Farrel smiled, affected by her glee. “He is a splendid fellow, Sontoral.”

“Oh, he is indeed, with his lean build and flashing eyes—and his wit, so quick and clever.”

“There is also sorrow in him, despite his usual flippancy,” Farrel said. “In the past he has been deeply hurt, by the murder of his parents, the theft of his lands. I hope you will treat him kindly, lady.”

“I will take care of his feelings.” She answered solemnly, then broke into a voluptuous grin. “And I will leave him fond memories of me.”

Her brazen, seductive beauty moved Farrel. He sighed, thinking of how many days he had been without his Kerrawyn.

Lady Bremmen peered up into his face, her eyes merry. “Your love will be here soon, tomorrow, or the next day.”

“How do you know that?”

“We are linked in spirit, Kerrawyn and I. Do not fear for her; she is well.”

They were walking downhill now, past ancient, solemn oaks, toward the bank of a swift-running stream. “How much has Kerrawyn told you of our venture?” Farrel asked.

“Not much. I knew already of the bridge from Balor, and that Kerrawyn and some companions were seeking a way to destroy it. But these things I learned from Deer and Owl and Badger. Kerrawyn told me only that I should expect your visit, and that she would follow soon after.”

As they strolled along the stream, Farrel recounted the details of their story—how Kerrawyn and Aidan had stayed behind to work the spell of the miniatures while he and the others rode to the Plain of Teeth; how Valin had entered the Gray World with the intent of disolving the bridge at its source, but had instead become trapped in Balor.

He was nearing the end of the tale when they arrived at the stable, a long building with whitewashed walls and red roof, set in a clearing in the forest. As Farrel could have predicted, no grooms or stable-boys were anywhere to be seen.

Inside he found the four horses, each in a spacious stall. Light sheens on their coats testified to recent exercise and brushing down, and they were now contentedly munching oats. Farrel took Valin's wand and some other things from the saddle bags—a comb for Glenna, some scent requested by Sontoral.

Before heading back to the house, Farrel and the lady stopped to rest on a flat boulder beside the stream. Lady Bremmen used a silver cup to scoop out drinks of the icy water.

“So the druid's wand has passed to you,” she remarked, “along with the responsibility of leading the fight.”

“Yes.” Farrel stared broodingly at the rushing water.

“He is with you, you know?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, my people know the ways and workings of the druids from old, though normally we traffic with them little. What I perceive is that, when Valin passed you his wand, he also passed a modicum of his awareness. He is joined to you now in spirit.”

The chieftain nodded pensively. “I have noticed ... episodes of bizarre awareness. But why he has joined with me I don't know. Glenna held the strongest link to him, as I understood the charm.”

“Glenna is possessed,” the Lady said.

“What?”

“That is why I insisted on talking with you alone. I knew when I first saw her that she was enthralled. From what you have said, it is plain that the Balorians captured a part of her soul when they captured Valin.”

“I felt a warning last evening that she was in danger,” Farrel said. “What can we do for her?”

“Do not be alarmed.” Lady Bremmen placed her hand on his. “It is best to wait till Kerrawyn arrives. She knows Glenna well and will know how to free her with the least risk of harm.”

“But is it safe to wait?”

“Oh, yes. Kerrawyn will not be long, and no harm will befall in the meantime. You are safe from evil while in my domain.”

Supper that day was a grand banquet laid out on a terrace overlooking the sloping lawn. The afternoon had warmed to summerlike weather and a light, pleasant breeze swept the surface of the pond, making wavelets that sparkled in the westering sun.

Farrel helped himself to heroic portions of baked fish and pheasant, fruits and sweetbreads. He had not feasted in many days and seldom on food such as this—fit for a high king's table.

A trio of musicians, dressed in purple livery, played airy and winsome tunes on tabor, lute, and pipes. They were the first people aside from the countess herself that the visitors had seen in the house, and Farrel wondered if they were truly flesh and blood or fey creatures conjured by a spell. Plainly, Sontoral was untroubled by such considerations. He simply applauded the music with rowdy delight, and expressed his appreciation to their hostess with many a flamboyent speech.

When the party had finished eating, Lady Bremmen excused herself, bidding the others stay and enjoy the music. The three guests remained at table, sipping cool mead and watching a pair of swans drift languidly across the pond. The sun was setting now, and a chorus of frogs started a boisterous croaking. But the three musicians proved more than equal to the noise. Indeed, their playing soon wove the frog-calls into a fabric of harmony.

“Most exquisitely done!” Sontoral toasted the musicians with raised goblet as they bowed and left the terrace. “By far the most melodious playing I have heard in this island.”

“I am so glad you found them pleasing.” Lady Bremmen had reappeared, her hands behind her back. “I have a small present for you, Sontoral, which I hope you will find useful.”

She held out to him a pair of elegant court boots, of fine brushed leather. “The garments that you have borrowed you must, unfortunately, return when you leave my realm. But these boots have been fashioned especially so you can take them with you back to your world.”

Sontoral's look of admiration deepened to one of heartfelt gratitude and love. He bowed gracefully low to accept the gift.

“My lady, I am overwhelmed with feeling. My gratitude is ... beyond words.”

The tiny lady burst into laughter. “When Sontoral has no words, that is a rare moment indeed.”

Nonplussed, the harper could only smile bashfully and bow again.

“I have in my library certain old manuscripts describing musical instruments of yore,” Lady Bremmen said. “I believe you might find them most interesting. Would you care to come and look?”

“Why, yes,” Sontoral answered. “Very much. Very much indeed.”

Farrel grinned as he watched them wander off together, arm in arm.

But then he turned and noticed Glenna staring at him with a pale and sullen expression.

“I am glad you and Sontoral are having such a fine time. I am sure Valin would be glad also, if he knew.” Her bitter voice broke at the end and she looked away, fighting back tears.

Farrel went and put his hand on her shoulder. “We have not forgotten Valin,” he said. “It's only that the way has been so hard and ...”

“Oh, Farrel.” Glenna stood and hugged him tightly, weeping. “Valin is lost to us. Everything is lost. What are we to do?”

“Do not give up hoping. We can still set him free.”

“I don't see how. Since the night he was trapped, I have believed I felt him with me still, in my heart. But what if I've only been deceiving myself? What if he is dead?”

“No. Valin lives.”

“I did not love him fully enough when there was time. I was jealous of the work that absorbed him, the time he spent with Kerrawyn and Aidan. Our time together was so short.”

“I know that he lives.”

“How can you know that?”

Farrel lifted her tear-streaked face, forcing her to look at him. “I do not know how, but I am certain. And there is still hope of freeing him. Lady Bremmen is with us, and Kerrawyn will be here soon. Together, we will find a way.”

She did not protest further, but hid her face in his shoulder and cried. Farrel held her, wondering how he had managed to speak with such conviction. As he gazed out at the shadowy forest, the answer came to him. His connection to Valin was alive and full of promise like a young oak.

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About the author

CorbinJay

Bio: Wandering scribe washed ashore in this strange and wondrous land.
Published in other places under the name "Jack Massa."

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