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.. why don't you run ? ...

A wolf, running

The wolf is still missing.  I don't feel like gossip, so I'm going to re-tell one of the stories of the wolf.

When he was sold and betrayed as a hostage into the fir bolg, there were some times he wasn't in that place where time, in a way, stands still.  The place leaked, though most of the exits were too small, a few grew larger, and it wasn't so much the captives escaping out as the things that started to come in.  A few of the captives that still had value got eaten and, for a time, they were all in a prison camp in the real world while the fir bolg was sealed again and the incursion beaten off.  This story happens then.

They would line us up to look at us, to see if we still had our teeth, for who knows what reason.  Magic told them if we were still there or not. After you had been there for a while you learned the signs that let the guards know you had turned rat and would talk or betray others. They would look for those, and every morning, as they lined us up, the master of the place would walk the line, smirking, followed by shamblers, and then would say "the hounds are lazy, the shamblers are hungry, I'm bored.  Why don't you run?"

Of course he wanted the message to get across that he didn't fear us running.  The surface, the outside, the real world might be our one chance to escape, for those of us still held but never to be exchanged, but we also knew that running wouldn't work. One morning I gave him the sign, when no one else could see it.

He looked at me a second time, but later, the guards grabbed me and and after beating me, threw me into the cell he used for an office. He looked at me hard, with his third eye, and only said "I can tell you are still feral. I never expected you in here, and feral, I'm not sure you are really here."

"In two days there will be a runner.  He'll take the seam out the North East, and you won't be able to track him for about thirty minutes.  If you put an intercept team at the cross-road they'll meet the runner at the second glass in the morning.  The shamblers will catch up by the third glass."

He stared at me.  "I can tell the truth.  I've the tracker's third eye, and I can tell the truth and the feral from the tame.  You may be telling the truth, but you are still feral.  Who is the runner and what is the price you want?" As if he ever paid the price he promised.

"Grnash and his hand should be the intercept team, they've been planning to kill you anyway, so it isn't much to ask. And by now you know I'll be the runner, so the shamblers will need the silver lashes." He suddenly smiled.   "If you don't run, the Erl King's son will, I'll bet, and in a fortnight.  You are running so he won't, and Grnash is just a bonus.  You've got some history there, surely you don't begrudge him the fun he had with the latest hostages?"  He had it.  I may have been betrayed by the Seelie King, and the Erl King may have been his vassal, but I owed them protection and care, not to mention some degree of vengeance.  I could run and survive being taken back, they probably wouldn't make it.

"It will be a good run, if you can do it.  If you can't, I need the exercise and the shamblers will enjoy the play."

It was done.

Running was easier than he thought it would be for me, and he never did figure out how I passed through the gates and walls, my mind stronger than his spells.  Grnash and his hand were just four more orcs, and they made a bloody feast for the hounds and shamblers when they came. The whipping from the silver lashes on the shamblers cut me deeply, but not as deeply as Gnash had.  The Erl King's heir decided not to run after all, and they redeemed him and his coterie before we were thrust back into the fir bolg.  I later heard that the Erl King blamed me for his taking, his injuries and his embarrassments and told none about how I had healed the heir by taking his wounds into myself.  The king was feckless, and a true retainer to the Seelie King.  I had known that would happen and only yawned at the news.  

Gossip?  Well, the wolf was separated from the Bitter King's hand near where the Erl King reigns.  Word has come back from the Lightwalker who is engaged in the war against Dyaus-Pitar that there will be justice when he returns.  The Seelie King snorts and says "if he returns" but the Seelie King has said that before.  The Seelie court in Paris still stinks and the word from Michael of the Elachi is that the wolf still lives within the walls of the world.  He will be found.

Copyright 2005 Stephen R. Marsh and Heather N. Marsh
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