“The necromancer was not nearly as hapless as your tale makes him out to be. In fact, he was quite well prepared for his planned ritual.”
“What ritual?” Avarron asked. Eleana had not mentioned any ritual at all to him.
“The ritual that would bind the Sidhe’s spirit to him, thus making him as immortal as one. He had everything he needed set up inside that crypt. In the dark, so she wouldn’t notice until it was too late. Only then did he pose as a humble traveller to draw her attention and let her lead him to the crypt. And when she was in position, he took out his knife and stabbed her.”
“But the ritual failed, didn’t it?” Avarron asked. “I mean, Theryn Donash is dead.”
“Fail it did,” the giantess nodded. “He never got to finish it. As you might know, at the moment of death, a spirit leaves the body and descends into the underworld, until it is ready to take a new place in the world. Fae are the exception to the rule, here. They are spirits of the living world, and never enter the realm of the dead.”
Avarron had heard of the underworld as a lingering superstition of the old faith. Buteverything in the Witchwood was mere superstition, according to the Inqusition. He didn’t know what to believe anymore, and wasn’t even interested in thinking about it right now. He just nodded at the giantess and let her continue.
“Knowing this, your ancestor wanted to create a bond between the now released spirit of the Sidhe and his own. However, little Nari was not nearly as weak as he had thought her to be. She fiercely fought him and for a while, was able to resist him. It would only delay the inevitable, though, as she had no way of retaliating. She was a spirit of nature and growth, and held no power over the dead in the crypt. But her resistance gave her she the time to change that. Whether she prayed to the Sidhe goddesses for guidance or cleverly came up with it herself, I do not know. Whatever her inspiration was, she abandoned her attunement to the living world in exchange for that of fate and death. That allowed her to place her curse on the necromancer and cause him to flee.”
“But why?” Llawyera asked. “Why not outright kill the son of an ogre?”
Avarron, Connin and the giantess all looked at her. She had been so quiet that they had all forgotten that she was still there. “Are you suggested that I am a descendant of an ogre?” Avarron asked. He wasn’t really insulted, but he certainly wasn’t going to pass this opportunity to teach the fairy to mind her language.
For the first time since he met her, Llaweyra seemed genuinely uncomfortable. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… It’s just that he’s such a…” for once, she couldn’t find an appropriate swearword.
“Apology accepted,” Avarron said with a satisfied smile. “It is a valid question, though. Why didn’t she kill him on the spot?” he asked the giantess.
“It’s not that simple to kill a powerful necromancer. I am not certain about her motives, but I suspect that her first priority was to stop him. That curse was the most effective way she could have devised.”
“If you wish to master life and death, you shall become the master of your own death,” Avarron whispered. That was the exact wording of the curse, as Eleana had told him. “I don’t get it. What makes this curse so effective?”
“It means he will die by his own hand,” the giantess explained. “First of all, it makes death inevitable and therefore makes immortality impossible. And if that isn’t enough reason to stop trying, such a curse means that bonding to a spirit that seeks only your demise nothing but suicidal.”
“So what did Donny do, then?” Llaweyra asked.
“The necromancer abandoned his ritual and fled. And fearing persuit from a raging banshee, he sealed the door to the crypt, using his own blood. Whatever demise he may have met, the seal persists. For the past two hundred years, nobody has been able to break the seal. Not even I have succeeded.”
“She’s tried. Repeatedly,” Connin added, which resulted in an agitated glare from the giantess.
“The point is, we think you can open it,” the giantess continued.
Somehow, Avarron had suspected it would eventually lead to this. The dirty work would be his charge, as usual. And usually he was fine with that. Usually, it did not involve any sorcery, though. “My ancestor, my blood, and all that. I get that. But why would we want to open that crypt in the first place?”
“The mist-wraith you’ve encountered is but an apparition. You’ll have to go down and find the real Sidhe.”
“But failure would mean releasing a maddened spectre on the world. That would only make things worse,” Avarron argued.
“Then you know my reluctance to this plan,” the giantess said, but continued decisively: “Even if we do nothing, the forest will only deteriorate, and there’s nowhere else in this land where people such as I, Connin or even your fairy friend can live. And you, who wish to leave, cannot do so until Nariain lets you. You’ll have to confront her sooner or later. And there’s no one else who can.”
Avarron sighed loudly. “Why does everyone always think I’m a hero? I’m just an ordinary knight, who’s been lucky a few times.”
“Because you are,” Connin and Llaweyra said together, and then immediately looked at each other in shock.
“Hee, even the gob-head agrees,” Llaweyra said, while simultaneously Connin said: “See, even the bug-Fae agrees.”
Once again they looked at each other in shock and horror, but kept silent in fear of once again expressing the very same thoughts.
“You came here, hoping to find a way to confront the banshee, did you not?” the giantess asked Avarron. “Or did you expect me to provide you with a means to escape the forest without her notice?”
“No, I had no hopes for a simple escape,” Avarron admitted. “But I still don’t know how to fight her.”
The giantess laughed heartily at him. “There is absolutely no way that you could possibly defeat her in combat. Even if Connin is correct about you. But if he is correct, there is one thing you can do, and that is revive her.”
Avarron stared at her in utter disbelief. He had no words to describe his shock and confusion.
The giantess looked down at Connin, who explained: “Again, blood. If it can break the seal, it can negate the kill.”
“It may negate the kill,” the giantess corrected him. “Don’t misunderstand, knight, this is a suicide mission if I ever saw one. But hey, you’re a hero now. What could possibly go wrong?” she laughed gleefully.
Avarron did not find her joke funny at all. But he had to admit to himself that he had never expected anything more than a suicide mission in coming here. “What do I need to do?” he asked, trying to sound as fearless as he could.
“It’s pretty simple. All we really need is willpower and a conduit. Your blood is the best conduit available, and it works best when used by you. All you really need to do is apply your blood as well as your will to the subject,” The giantess explained, speaking slowly.
Avarron nodded to indicate his understanding. “I think I can do that,” he said, not even trying to hide his uncertainty.
“Excellent,” the giantess smiled. “I suggest preparing two vials here. You don’t want to spill any blood in that crypt. Especially not your blood.”
Avarron silently offered his left hand to the giantess.
“Sit,” she said, and a chair from the kitchen moved, apparently by itself, to Avarron and scooped him up, bringing him to the giantess’ height. As before, she carefully made a cut in his hand and let the blood drop into a vial, handed to her by a goblin that had appeared out of nowhere, followed by a second vial. With both vials filled and sealed, another goblin quickly wrapped Avarron’s hand in a strap of cloth.
Connin handed him the two vials of his own blood, which he carefully placed in his belt pouch, where previously the black crest had been. “Thank you both for your assistance,” he said and made a quick bow to them.
The giantess chuckled. “If you succeed, the entire forest will thank you and you’ll really be a hero.” She walked over to the door, letting her staff loudly tap the floor with every step. She placed her hand on the doorknob and said: “One more thing. Be wary of that enchantress of yours. She’s trying to worm her way into your mind. Now, off you go.” Then she opened the door for him.