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Quest of Three: Part Five

by schefflera


Also by Dreagoddess

Illusen's admonition to "hold tight" hadn't left Darigan, Jeran, or Kass time to ask "to what?" before her spell took them from the home of the Three, but when the earth receded to leave them in a warm sun-dappled forest glade, each had a hand on what was now a fourfold tree. Kass looked mightily confused about this.

     Darigan let go of his branch with a sigh of relief, then looked around and realized that something else in the glade had changed. "Why," he asked carefully, "are we surrounded by a blackberry hedge?"

     "It tends to make a nice barrier in a hurry." Illusen reached out and plucked a ripe berry, popping it in her mouth with a smile. "And a tasty one."

     Darigan looked around the serene glade. "Against what?"

     Illusen scowled at that. "The Three, originally."

     "But --" Kass began. His survey of the area was a little wilder-eyed.

     Illusen interrupted him by depositing a blackberry in his beak. "Unfortunately I couldn't seem to keep it tangible to them."

     "...You grew it there?" Darigan asked, dazed. There had been a hedge there. He remembered the Skeith walking through it, but it hadn't occurred to him at the time that it seemed to have grown out of nowhere.

     "Focused, aren't you?" Illusen sounded amused. "Yes, I grew it there. I lost my temper, and then thought I'd try to make it useful. And I wasn't going to leave it there." She paused. "The berries are fine, though."

     Darigan wasn't sure berries grown from the earth of a dark dimension and an earth faerie's ill temper sounded "fine," exactly, but he took this as a hint and picked one to eat, carefully avoiding the thorns. "It is good," he said, trying not to sound surprised. "I admit, I wouldn't have expected anything to grow there at all."

     "Anything can grow if you put enough energy into it." Illusen stretched. "That was satisfying."

     Kass opened his mouth to speak; Illusen popped a berry in it.

     "Indeed." Darigan was rather relieved to be able to agree with her assessment; at least she hadn't said it had been fun again.

     "It was successful," Jeran agreed, "and nothing lost on the way."

     Kass twisted around to look up at Jeran, then started to swivel back toward Darigan but made the mistake of opening his beak while Illusen was looking.

     She promptly popped another berry in. "You must be starving. I know Darigan was, when he came back. You can't have eaten much since you left, after all."

     Kass shut his mouth on the berry and must have nearly swallowed it whole in order to try to speak again as soon as he did. It didn't work. His eyes rolled somewhat frantically after the next blackberry in an apparent attempt to suggest the questions he wanted to ask.

     "He probably is, lady, but I believe he was trying to talk," Darigan suggested.

     "He can talk later," Illusen said.

     Jeran's mouth twitched. "She's an earth faerie, you know," he said to Darigan and Kass. "I don't think she can help feeding people."

     Illusen huffed at him, but she was smiling.

     Darigan cleared his throat. "At any rate, Kass, we have made peace with Meridell again -- as you probably noticed. We're now in Illusen's Glade -- which didn't have a ring of blackberry bushes in it when we left -- as she and Sir Jeran Borodere kindly agreed to join me in recovering you."

     "Because your lord gets into too much trouble on his own," Jeran added cheerfully to Kass. "I've been trying to keep him out of trouble lately, but frankly, it's exhausting. I'll be glad to let you help too now."

     Kass looked nonplussed and a bit alarmed, but managed not to gape. Illusen started piling her picked blackberries on a large leaf in front of him instead.

     "It may be a hopeless project," Darigan offered gravely. "Galgarrath has been trying for years."

     "Ah. Well, you're welcome to join in the hopeless task, Kass. And you can commiserate with my knights. They've had the hopeless task of keeping ME out of trouble for years."

     Darigan grinned at him. "I thought getting in trouble was your job."

     "Part of it. That's why keeping me out of it is hopeless, see."

     "And he was getting into trouble long before it was his job," Illusen added with evident amusement, still picking blackberries. "Such as intruding on a certain faerie's home while fighting off a legion of pretend enemies."

     Jeran blushed red under his fur.

     "You chose odd places to play, didn't you?" Darigan asked him with a grin. The dread and gloom that he'd had to fight the entire time in the Three's home dimension were receding, much to his relief.

     "Everyone assumed I'd been playing in the glade already, so I thought I might as well DO so," Jeran retorted.

     "I don't see why they did." Illusen sniffed. "It's not as if I'm in the habit of dropping small children into the castle." She winked at the former small child in question.

     "But apparently you are always in the habit of greatly confusing people," Jeran countered with a grin, looking over at Kass again.

     "I'm not doing anything confusing that I can see."

     Kass made the mistake of opening his beak to try to add to Jeran's statement. Illusen saw this and popped two more berries in his mouth. He gave a resigned sigh and swallowed.

     "I imagine the whole situation is confusing at the moment," Darigan pointed out. "I wasn't exactly on speaking terms with either of you last he knew."

     "Very true," Jeran conceded. "And actually, he probably thought I was dead, for that matter." He added helpfully to Kass, "Psellia caught me, incidentally. Air faerie. Helpful person to know."

     Kass regarded him warily and looked, for a second, as if he might try to speak; then he glanced at Illusen and subsided.

     "Galgarrath," Darigan added, "landed in the rubbish dump. He's not very happy about it."

     "Although he apparently made some good friends while he was down there," Jeran put in.

     "I really hope you mean after he got out," Illusen said with a raised eyebrow.

     "Well, a bit of both," Jeran said. "I'm told he gets on with the farmers who pulled him out."

     "Oh, I see. I thought for a moment you meant someone had taken up residence."

     Jeran grimaced. "In the rubbish dump? I sincerely HOPE not!"

     "Yes, so do I! It's quite useful for compost, but not as a dwelling."

     "Very true." Jeran grinned over at Kass again. The grin probably would have been more reassuring if it hadn't revealed a great many very sharp teeth. "But the point is, he's none the worse for wear. Fortunately."

     Kass nodded cautious and somewhat apprehensive agreement and voluntarily ate a blackberry, perhaps under the impression that if he demonstrated an ability to feed himself Illusen might eventually let him speak.

     Unfortunately, this just made Illusen beam in pleasure and pop another berry in his mouth. "You like them? Delicious, aren't they?"

     Kass blinked at her and then, resigned, nodded instead of trying to answer her aloud.

     "Were this to be the only result of your losing your temper, lady," Darigan said wryly, "I would invite you to come do so on the citadel next time you felt like it."

     "You are sweet. And with a wicked tongue. I see why my Jeran likes you so."

     "Ah... thank you." Darigan paused and blinked at Kass, whose feathers had ruffled up at his earlier words and were only now settling. "Is something wrong? -- Lady, let him speak, please."

     "Temper..." Kass said hoarsely, then shook his head, settling back a little. "I saw her fight."

     Of course he had. Darigan had been too caught up in his own battle to watch anyone else's, but he did remember that the only sign of the dark faerie immediately afterward had been damp ground.

     "A sight few even in Meridell have been granted the right to see," Jeran spoke up. "She found you worthy of the defense. And Darigan worthy of the aid." A quick grin encompassed all of them. "So she'd never vent her temper on the citadel while it remains a friend to Meridell, of course."

     "Now which among us do you think might need reminding of that?" Illusen asked mischievously. "But there, it does remind me of another thing I meant to do -- Darigan, I have something for you before you go."

     Darigan tried, for Kass's sake as well as his own pride, not to look too nervous. "Oh?"

     "I think you'll like it." She smiled brightly at him and hopped up, then over the brambles with a flit of her wings. "Go on with the blackberries; some more of them should be ripening."

     One didn't usually expect to end up with purple-stained paws in an earth faerie's home, but blackberries made it fairly inevitable. (Of course, on Kass it was harder to tell.) Darigan was just starting to ask Jeran, "Do you have any idea --" when Illusen came hurrying back to them.

     She dropped down within the hedge again and, looking quite pleased with herself, presented Darigan with what appeared to be a green ball growing in a clay pot no larger than his fist. "You'll want to plant this somewhere it won't get stepped on."

     "Ah...thank you, lady. It's very nice." He studied it for a while, then gave up and asked, "What IS it?"

     The faerie chuckled, then sobered. "An Illusen's Orb Plant. Not quite a replacement, but it does help other things to grow better. Or it will eventually -- it may take some work to counter the other effects on your land, and this is only a young one." The corner of her mouth turned up. "That's another thing -- plant it somewhere you won't want to move it from. Even for me, they're very difficult to transplant once they're mature."

     "Then thank you again, Illusen, from all my people. This is a truly great gift."

     "We'll see. There seem to be several layers of magic interfering, not to mention your earth being up in the air, but the roots should get through eventually. You probably should get it back into the ground fairly soon, though." She made a shooing motion at the bramble-hedge, which parted and began shuffling into a straight line, leaving a trail of rumpled earth in its wake.

     "I'll plant it immediately upon our return." A short bow. "Thank you, lady. And thank you, Sir Jeran, for your aid. Kass." Darigan smiled over at the Eyrie and spread his wings. "Let's go home."

The End

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Other Episodes

» Quest of Three: Part One
» Quest of Three: Part Two
» Quest of Three: Part Three
» Quest of Three: Part Four

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