While the visitors breakfasted, Grandmother grew her wings and led me by air back to Durandal. She was hiding us as we flew, but I was still way uncomfortable. I mean, there was no getting around the fact that I was again flying naked in broad daylight! And this time, I knew there were eyes in the area! I am not okay with that, you know?
“Can I please have my dress back now, Grandmother?” I begged as we landed.
She laughed. “When you leave here. Which will be soon. You need to stop that man from doing something rash.”
That was certainly my plan, but something on the contrary had been gnawing on my thoughts.
“Parna said my grandfather wouldn’t care. The Fairy King has so many princesses, he probably doesn’t even remember me.”
Grandmother chuckled. “Most of his daughters are humans he begat, who almost all have long since died of old age. Only a child born to a fairy mother is a true half-fairy, you know. He has five living fairy daughters, seven living fairy granddaughters, and two living half-fairy granddaughters, including you. With only fourteen living princesses in his clan, I doubt any of them are expendable. Especially not the one he gifted to the largest remaining human kingdom. Your first instinct, to get to Tëan Tír as soon as possible, was quite correct.”
I frowned and thought about it. “I wanted to reunite with my friends in Bray first. With everything that’s happened, going to Relador by myself is risky.”
She gave a chuckle. “You will be fine. I don’t know who the caster is, yet, but I can see very powerful magic moving in your favor around you. I think it’s why you found your great-grandfather. I’m sure he sent you to me because he saw the negative magics acting on you, but he found you in the first place, and that was extraordinary. Perhaps my mother is involved.”
“You did end up at her temple, after all. You even cleaned up some troublesome litter for her. And brought it to me, of all people. Quite curious.”
For a bit, I just stared at her blankly. Finally I asked, “Her temple?”
“The Temple of Eurybia in old Oste, Innanmi.”
“That temple belongs to your mother?” I asked, plenty confused.
“Well, yes,” she answered with a puzzled tone. But then she just shrugged it off and turned to Durandal.
Laying her hand on his crosspiece, she said, “Speak to me, spirit.”
I wonder if you can hear my voice? Durandal mused.
I thought it was an odd response.
“Why shouldn’t she hear your voice?” I asked. I mean, I could hear it fine.
You heard me because I extended my contract to you, My Lady. As long as I was offering it, you could still hear me. Although you did not accept my offer, you made a simpler deal that allows me to continue speaking to you.
You promised to find me a safe place of rest. You offered nothing else, but as long as I consider that a sufficient price, I can allow you to wield me, and thus I can speak to you.
I looked at Grandmother, who had grown a gentle smile.
“Grandmother, can you hear him?” I asked.
“It is natural to hear the voice of my child, Innanmi,” she answered softly, then caressed the pommel like a baby’s head. “Durandal, in hearing you, I know you to be the true owner of that name.”
“Your child?” I asked, now completely bewildered. Also confused as to how hearing him would prove it.
I had thought I felt your presence, Mother, but didn’t dare believe it. I am convinced now. This truly is just a dream. I shall awaken back into that madness once again.
A tear touched my grandmother’s cheek. “No, my child. I am real. Your niece has truly brought you home to me.”
That last line was me, screaming inside my mind, not Durandal.
“How am I his niece?” I demanded.
Grandmother smiled at me. “The First Ones tasked seven children to create a holy sword each. Durandal was mine. I summoned the greatest Svartalfar swordsmiths and bade them each present me a blade. I selected this one for my dear Durandal’s body. Which makes him your mother’s elder brother, doesn’t it?”
Wait. The Lady of the Lake? A holy sword?
“Shouldn’t he be named Excalibur?” I muttered to myself.
“Excalibur?” Grandmother said with a frown. “That bitch Tenre made Excalibur. I think he was lost at sea, millennia ago.”
Now I was just baffled. I mean, really? Did someone misread the script?
“So did you give him to someone named Arthur? Or was it Roland?”
“Hm? I believe her name was Arlane.”
It was, indeed, Mother.
Arlane was the name of a really ancient hero from long before Orestania or the Ostish empire. Tiana had to study an epic poem from very early times about her. Her story didn’t resemble either Arthur or Roland, but she was an Elven warrior princess during a dark time when only Elves and Dwarves wrote down their stories, and most other mortals on our continent lived in illiterate wandering tribes or small forgotten city-states.
“How did you come to be at my mother’s temple, Durandal?” Grandmother asked.
I cannot remember. I served several heroes, until one named Mizky. She carried me into battle against the Demon King of Orgoth. After that, my memory is only torment and nightmare. But I remember coming to think that it would end if I found you or Her Holiness. The one that carried me must have ended themself at the temple.
“Mother must have called you home to give your victim rest, then. Orgoth’s rise was almost four thousand years ago, Durandal. And that was indeed when the first cursed weapons came to be. A long time passed between this Mizky and the nameless one who carried you to the temple.”
It was a terrible ordeal, Mother.
“I am sorrowed for you, my child. It was a dark day for all spirit weapons when the demons invented the means to destroy you.”
But we can be saved now?
Grandmother sighed, looking at me. “I frankly have no clue how your niece did what she did, Durandal. And I fear to allow her to try it again. She might not stop a second cursed weapon from overtaking her.”
This entire time I had spent adding questions to a list forming in my mind. I hadn’t found a way to ask any of them.
May I rest here, Mother?
“Eventually, child. But I have one last labor for you. You must accompany your niece until she no longer has need of you.”
I am no longer a fit weapon. There are demons who can curse me with a touch.
She chuckled. “If she runs into such a demon, perhaps she should throw you away. Although, with her strength of purification, I think she might be able to stop the curse before it starts by simply filling you with [Purification]. But she must go to her grandfather as her king’s knight, so she must carry a sword. What better choice to serve in that role than her own uncle?”
Looking back to me, she said, “Your dress is behind you, Innanmi. Put it on and fly directly to the Fairy King.”
I turned, expecting to see my bedraggled tea gown hanging from the tree, and was shocked to see it in pristine condition. No, better than that. It remained minus the backflap, but the silk taffeta was now brand-new and had been artfully embellished with gold and silver embroidery. It gave the skirt an appearance of being draped with necklaces and splashed with jewels.
Since a fairy wouldn’t think of it and I had arrived with none, naturally there were no underthings. But I pulled the dress on with gratitude. It was such a relief to feel covered once more, and fortunately this gown was meant for only a single petticoat. The absence of one didn’t cause the hem to drag on the ground.
The flats had turned into silk slippers, similarly decorated, that I put on as well.
She didn’t realize I need underthings, but she did realize I needed a sword belt. It was hanging on the branch with the dress. I donned it, then pulled Durandal out of the ground and sheathed him. He still desperately needed maintenance, but at least, now he had a home.
It was a different style of sword-belt, so I would have to get used to the draw, but Grandmother evidently knew what made better sense for a flying swordswoman. I had long-since realized that a scabbard hanging from the hip wasn’t optimal for someone who flew in a prone position, but I had yet to find a better solution. Fortunately, Grandmother knew.
The sword belt she provided placed the scabbard sideways across the small of my back. It could be untied from one side to hang at the other side in a somewhat conventional way or tied again to hang crossways. I had to practice a bit to learn how to draw when it was sitting sideways. It was certainly going to take a little getting used to.
She had built into the belt a leather wallet and a holster that held an orichalcum survival knife. The knife had permanent [Fortification] and [Sharpness] enchantments. As I looked it over, I had to wonder how many crowns this little thing had cost, and who in the heck had invested that kind of money in a mere survival knife.
But, after I thought about it from an adventurer’s point of view, I realized it would be an eminently practical use for such money if one scored a big haul from a dungeon dive.
While I prepared myself, Grandmother took another trip into the depths of her lake, coming back with a muddy sack. Out of it poured way more coin than would fit in my new wallet.
The moment I saw it, it hit the pit of my stomach hard. If Grandmother was going to give me this money anyway, I could have just gone to a brothel. She had me take advantage of that girl for no good reason. I held my tongue, but I seriously wanted to get angry with her.
Just like with the knife, I didn’t ask where it came from. There were high denomination coins in that pile than one would not throw into water to make a wish. But I remembered what she told me happened to foolish men who tried to capture her.
Putting aside thoughts of guilt, both over the girl and the men whom the money and the knife were probably looted from, I picked through the money pile for coins I recognized and packed them into the wallet, then added several additional coins that Grandmother made me take. Then, Grandmother stepped up to me and gave me a kiss. Nope, not on the lips, though it wouldn’t have surprised me. She decently went for the cheek, a nice, chaste touch.
“Go to your grandfather and tell him what has transpired, Innanmi. I do not know if he will aid you, but it is important than he not strike the wrong enemy.”
“What do I do after that, Grandmother?” I wondered.
It was an important question. I had absolutely no idea how to untangle my truly messed-up situation.