“We need an exit strategy,” said Blair. “Our Court needs an exit strategy. Their Majesties need us to have one; one that doesn’t lose them face.” He looked the image of a youthful, ambitious politician, if your ideas of such people included a greenish complexion, pointed ears, and garments of dark silk and white nettle cloth.
“This was Guilderon’s project,” pointed out Mavis, pushing a lock of her sea-striped hair back behind a pointed ear, “and now that he’s dead, we don’t know exactly how many irons he had in the fire and where.”
“It seems to me that the information the task was based on was out of date,” observed Blair. “Everything I’ve learned since we came here, and everyone I’ve talked to, has indicated that the situation we were expecting to walk into was something that happened over fifty years ago. We fae are long lived, but fifty years is still a noticeable gap – I don’t know how that got through Their Majesties’ advisers.”
“Were we betrayed?” Mavis asked the question sharply. “Our Court does have enemies who want to keep us small and unimportant.”
“Not betrayed,” Sibelle spoke for the first time since they’d finished cleaning and formally laying out their leader’s body. She’d been shuffling a deck of blank cards, her stiff insect-like wings held folded in their resting position, but now she was laying the cards out in a pattern on the silk covered table in front of her and each playing card sized plaque became illustrated as she laid it down. “However, this place is and was always a trap. We are not the first to be lured into it, and the darkness at the heart of this trap blocked our roads out of it once we walked in willingly.” She laid out three more cards, and then another three. “It tied its obfuscations to Guilderon and for now it no longer clouds our sight. It controls all the roads into and out of this realm but there is another road, an older one from before this realm’s creation that goes through it without entering it. I believe that if we act while we can still see clearly, we can open a door onto it. The route won’t be direct, but it will take us home.” Sibelle looked up from her cards, her hands, wings, and the deck still. “I don’t know that we have much time.”
“We can’t take Guilderon with us,” said Mavis sharply. “He’d be the first to tell us that his body would be naught but an encumbrance to travel with, now that he’s no longer in it.”
“True,” Blair nodded, “but if we bury him here, with all honour-”
“Then there would forever be a part of this realm that is also a part of our Court,” finished Sibelle, “and that would save face for Their Majesties by completing our task.”
“We could bind the doorway so not just anyone can open it,” added Mavis thoughtfully. “If we tie it too tightly to ourselves, then we run the risk of binding us to it. If we leave it too open, then anyone who cares to could pursue us, and trap setters rarely like to let their victims escape.”
“If we’re going to wind up inspiring half a dozen portal fantasies,” quipped Sibelle, “then the locals won’t be able to claim that we did nothing for them.”
The laughter was a welcome break, and then the three of them got down to the business of tidying up and going home.
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