Chess for the Season and All Things Unresolved

(c) Nin Harris 2007

The Caretaker Speaks:

Late afternoon, and the sky is gradually approaching the color of flax, bright blue merely a memory, for now. Will there be a storm troubling the waves of Alta Exsilli soon? From the big, round window which overlooks the ocean, I can see the clouds. The changing quality of the light shifts the patterns the stained-glass mosaic rim makes on our table. Our hands and the pieces on the chessboard are rendered mysterious. I cannot help but anticipate the further shift in the patterns, when the sky changes robes for the gloaming. I look forward to these minor amusements each day, experiencing each with a bemused sense of unreality, despite the fact that a decade has passed since I first set foot on Yrejveree.

It has been a long time since we’ve taken tea together, Ipede and I. And in the past, the meals we shared would be filled with a less picturesque ambience of gloom. The Librarium possesses a different kind of gloom, a solemn, reassuring kind. The girl, Yildie, pours for us, handling the painted china tea set with skill. I have protested countless times against her performing such services. She is not a servant here. She cannot believe me, yet. Nor can I do anything for what’s haunting her eyes and placing furrows underneath. I know the cause. I’ve lived in Mykologosia myself for a long while; I’ve seen the gashes on the walls. So long as the Wild Hunt roams, it will never end, even if all tales of the Assassin have ceased, for now. She is grateful to me, perhaps too grateful. I will have to learn to live with it. People are either embarrassingly grateful to me or curse my interference these days. Part and parcel of the job description, one might say.

Ipede takes a scone from the plate and butters it.

I ask Yildie to join us, but she shakes her head and retreats to the corner where I’ve placed a desk for her. I have been most grateful to delegate a great chunk of my paperwork as well as secondary research tasks. It frees me up for the rest of my responsibilities. Truth be told, I’m rather envious. She gets to do all the fun stuff now; I, on the other hand have to make all the stupid decisions, the minor and petty ones that the Guardian tackled on a daily basis. I remember how we cursed and carped at her for it. Ruefulness, would be an understatement.

As is our custom, at every Solstice and Equinox, Ipede and I play chess all afternoon, discussing topics of antiquity. We round up this pleasant, gentlemanly ritual with a sumptuous tea. It inevitably ends when he lights up his pipe and descends into a maudlin stupor. I never question too deeply into the contents of the pipe, merely open the windows and step back a little. Things are different, this time around. Yildie is here now, as well as that terrible woman, Deiranetta. They fill the tranquil spaces of this manse. Also, I cannot help but be reminded of All Things Unresolved when I cast my eyes on Ipede, as well as my new friend, the dragon Hrelgar.

Hrelgar is a little too big in dragon-form to curl up before the fire in the library, and so he has been wearing his human form more often. We can do nothing for his melancholy; no one that we have approached knows of a way to release Erna from Nemorosum Somnium.

The dreaming forest has absorbed her and her child. None can find their way either in or out of that forest. And far worst has occurred. I have traced this state of unrest but do not know where it begins. Which came first, Erna’s refusal to be crowned Queen, or the Wild Hunt? Did the angry Dragons agitate the Wild Hunt, or was it the other way around?

More questions than answers, here. And all I really, really want to do is find out the true names of the places of this island.

Ipede makes a half-hearted attempt at checkmate by getting his bishop to take my knight. But my adroit castling maneuver saves my king. We pause. I pop a petit four into my mouth and chew as Ipede complains about his new assistant. He is looking healthier these days. He has branched off into a more obscure branch of alchemy, which, although ponderous, is far safer than the dark arts he sought to practice. Perhaps he is finally resigned to the fact that he will never again see Water Lily. This makes me sad. So many things have yet to be resolved, even if a good decade has passed since things were set in place. Some may never be resolved.

I look outside, and imagine I can see far enough into Silva Atra, where Tarme lives. The last time I met her was when I brought Hrelgar to see her. Nothing much to report there, merely disappointment, and the look of promise in Tarme’s eyes. I wish I could take her up on that unspoken offer, but I have this stupid island to run now. It won’t run itself, and I can’t afford to risk my life canoodling with a wolf-maiden in Silva Atra of all places!

*

An excited squeak interrupts our reverie. It is Yildie, her eyes wild as she waves a book in front of us. Ah, the joys of a researcher. I am envious once again. But, I smile indulgently as she begins to speak. No doubt, some obscure but nonetheless toothsome bit of information from history. Perhaps, it might even be useful in my task of constructing place-names. But wait, her eyes are really big this time, and something in her posture alerts us to the fact that maybe, just maybe, there is Something Big after all.

“I think I may have figured out a way to extract that lady Dragon from the forest of dreaming!”

Hrelgar jumps up from his woebegone posture by the fireplace as she squeaks this out. Ipede merely looks at her with a distracted expression,

“That’s very nice now, dear,” he says, “but I don’t suppose you can find a way for me to see the Faeries again now, could you?”

Yildie’s face falls, but not for long. Hrelgar is clasping her hands now in his and almost screaming questions at her. I follow them to her desk as she begins to lay out a plan of attack. And so, I must leave you now. We have Something Important to Resolve.

Have a Happy Season, every one of you. Do feel free to continue your festivities in Domus Exsulis. There’s a party going on in the Ballroom, and yet another on the moonlit terraces outside. I’ve been told that the rival bogle factions are holding a cricket match out there.

Well, what are you waiting for? Shoo!

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