The Stones of Arcory Chapter Thirty Two
Through The Forest Door

With little choice, and some curiosity, I urged my steed into the dark tunnel, hoping we would come out to see a familiar face, if not necessarily a friendly one. I was not disappointed. The long tunnel did indeed lead to a brighter place, a wild garden surrounded by ancient towering oaks and maples and a figure dressed in sparkling robes standing beside a pool in the heart of the grove. I stopped my steed, dismounted, then walked the path to the round pool. I will admit not being able to suppress a smile, though it was a wary one. It had been a long time since I had seen the beautiful woman before me, even if I could not yet see her face. And those times, decades ago, had been mostly pleasant, although I did remember they had ended in rancor and blood.

She did not glance at me, but continued gazing down at the darkness of the pool. I stopped a few paces from her. What woman was I about to face again? The one who claimed to love me, or the one who nearly killed me? I kept a solid grip on my staff. The scent of jasmine drifted along the warm breeze. I decided to break the silence.

“Gwynhafer,” I began. “It has been a long time.”

One of the Cathali Greenwald’s greatest enchantresses ever turned to face me. Nothing about her had changed in the decades since last our paths had crossed. I wasn’t surprised. She was ageless. Even Arcory had remarked on her permanency, and he had known her for centuries before I was even born. She was also beautiful, with blonde tresses falling around her rosy sun kissed cheeks. And she did not seem pleased to see me.

“What are you doing in my forests, Greyslan Amberglass?” she offered with her sweet bell like tones. I found myself speechless again from their power, as I had been as a youth.

“Speak wizard,” she told me, green eyed gaze glaring at me from beneath her wreath crown. “Why are you disturbing my realm?”

My staff had begun to fight my grip, I held it fast. Gwynhafer did not want me dead, I told myself. Or I would be.

“I am on a fool’s last quest,” I told her. “How else could I come across such beauty?”

“And do you think such cheap flattery will earn you free passage?” she told me as her gaze narrowed. “What makes you think, now I have caught you again, I will ever let you go.”

“Flattery always worked in the past,” I reminded her. “And what makes you think I wish to be let go?”

The enchantress turned her head at that. Her lips moved from sultry frown to smile.

“Consider yourself my hostage then,” she told me, and the forest rose up and reached down to take me. “We shall see what your precious Council will pay to have you returned to their storied halls of wisdom and restraint. You still have some value, do you not?”

I was gripped tightly by grasses that covered my boots, branches and vines that wrapped around my arms.

“Actually, Gwyn,” I told her as the grasses and vines gripped my limbs. “It’s probably best you don’t tell them you have me, as my absence from my given path has likely already drawn their attention. But not so tightly please, my bones are old now and not a little brittle. I assure you, I am not here to threaten your realm. I am on a mission to retrieve a man for his wife. Nothing more.”

She had one thing to say further before the green enveloped me.

“We shall see about that, my wizard.”

 — Go To Chapter 31

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