Well into the fens, the waterway they traveled was nearly indiscernible from the surrounding bog, at least to Branwhyn, but Leon seemed to know the route well. A clear sign of one who had spent their life in the flooded lands. When they came within view of Greymoor, the grey of dusk hadn’t quite turned to twilight and the buzzing biting insects that drifted in cloud-like swarms hadn’t yet fled the growing chill of night. The settlement was surrounded by a palisade of grey sharpened logs which jutted outward like spears set against a charge. The waterway upon which they traveled, led straight to an opening in the palisade, a net of soaked hemp fibers barred the way. Through it, they could see the settlement was actually built upon a lake and the palisade built upon the shore. Behind the fortifications were wooden houses, raised on stilts above the water and would serve as excellent vantage points to fire an arrow against any would-be attacker. A curious defensive solution, forcing movement inside to be by boat or by swimming.
The airlock of the Witch of Endor rolled shut behind him. Though no sound came across the void of space, Gawain’s mind made him think he heard it clang shut anyway. Testing the patched-together EV suit’s thrusters, the movement turned him to see the belt of ruble known as Rockstorm, the remains of a planet — shattered in some ancient and long forgotten cataclysm. Normally asteroid belts were actually quite stable and the Witch nimble enough to navigate them. The Rockstorm though was fraught with magnetic anomalies which kept the fragments in constant and chaotic motion. It was as a whole a perilous expanse of soaring, spinning, colliding rocks. Only fools dared venture into it. Gawain fired the EV suit’s jury-rigged thrusters to send him into the Rockstorm.
The ignition mass used by The Day of Jubilation – the ship which carried the cargo he was after – left a trail which he could track. The Heads Up Display (HUD) in the EV suit’s helmet illuminated the trail and Gawain sent the suit to follow. The cargo in question was a stolen reliquary containing the bones of a long-dead religious leader.
The rest was short and fitful, waking at any unfamiliar sound and expecting to see the Hag looming over them. With fatigue and exhaustion little more than held at bay, they roused to take a closer look at the cauldron that Molok had taken from the Hag.
“This is how she made the mist? Brought forth the spirits?” Corinna too had recovered from her ordeal and her insatiable curiosity covered any sign of lingering weariness.
Branwhyn nodded thoughtfully. “If I understand Molok’s idea — which I’m not convinced that I do — he wants you to reverse the magic. Or brew a counter ritual of some kind. And no, I’ve no idea how you would do that.”
The changeling gave him a sidelong look, her mismatched green and golden brown eyes questioning. “But you think I can.” More a statement than a question.
Molok gave what must have been an encouraging smile, though showed too many teeth, as he made a stirring motion over the cauldron.
Silent for a long moment, Branwhyn slowly nodded his head. “For you and I, magic is in the blood. Your mother used a cauldron, larger and with the body part of children in it, to wield magic. Somewhere within you is the ability to do the same.”
“What if it changes me?” The girl asked, looking – for the first time in his memory – afraid of the thought of what the wielding of magic might do. “What if it makes me more like them? Like my mother or my aunt?”