The Stones of Arcory
Chapter Thirty Four
Again, Arcory’s Stones

“I can think of a few other positions for you,” I offered. She laughed again, turned back and slapped my chest with the flat of her hand.

“Things must be dark if you come all the way here from your precious archives.” Her voice turned a little petulance maybe even jealous. “I thought there was little that was more important than debating the fine use of power to the breadth of a hair. Isn’t that what you men do all day and night these days?”

There was no point in adding that women were now allowed in those hallowed halls. I had considered her point of view, but even now power such as hers would not be permitted in Council, not after the violence of her kinds departure from the alliance. She had not been happy when I finally the choice of giving my destiny over to my fellows, the scar was a reminder of that rage. But she was right in a way. The world around us was ever finding new ways to twist and darken.

“You are talking about the plans for the coming war?” I asked her.

“Is that not what occupies you all?”

“Yes, with the conjunction approaching there is much debate. And also action, although not ones that suggest propriety, even amongst my fellows.” I began tentatively, then decided to be fully open with her. “Arcory stones have been stolen, I am certain of it. Of the March whose margrave I am searching for, perhaps others. By whom I do not know yet but I am concerned, considering where there power was sourced. Not many have the capability, nor the motivation.”

She took in a breath, almost a hiss as her expression changed in consideration of my words. Whatever her dark thoughts they didn’t spoil her appearance. She was beautiful as I had always remembered her. Like wizards, the forest witches had their own kinds of sacrifices that allowed them to live an age. Whatever price she paid to maintain hers, I couldn’t help be grateful. I may have become an old man, but I was still a man. That appreciation is one of the things I still hold dear, a vanity perhaps; that would be valid, I agree.

She frowned. Even that expression held an enchantment.

“So you are not simply trying to return a man to his woman,” she stated.

I shook my head.

“You aren’t suggesting that one of mine pilfered one of those accursed rocks.” Gwyn sounded affronted. It was the reaction I expected. Foul magicks were no more friend of the forest than they were for any other. But I did remember that she considered Arcory’s act of magic dampening an equal if not greater evil.

“The stones carry quite a measure of his power, as well you know, what it became during and after the war,” I reminded her. “And whoever stole them left no evidence of their passage. That takes talent. Given what we will be facing again, it’s understandable that a wizard or a witch might dare an attempt to crack their secrets and gain what power was apportioned in them, however foul. That is a danger, regardless of their motivation.”

She replied with a smirk, which spread into a knowing and sultry smile. Turned back down onto the moss, her warm body pressing against mine.

“And still, one as weak willed as you was always better lover than he,” she whispered in my ear, offering a knowing caress. I offered one in return. “Is that why you can’t help by try to find them?”

“I turned that power to its best use,” I replied. “I am obligated to return them. The Margrave must have an inkling what became of them.”

“Perhaps your master’s former servants are looking to put him back together again.” Gwyn suggested the terrible thought in her sweetest tones. “I have heard they have grown bolder in recent years.”

I thought of Ethely and her wound, and of the Demon of the Hot Sun in the Black Mountains that the witches told me the Margrave had been seeking favor of.

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