Reproach me if you must – I’m sure there be more decorous ways to address incorporeal deceased royalty – But me nerves by now were shot nearly to ribbons, which honestly takes some doin’.
I weren’t what’chya might call me usual Serene Self.
“What in the name of Bullroarer’s Breakfast be the meanin’ o’ THAT manner of introduction? It be rude enough droppin’ in on a lady unannounced when she be halfway to her Wits’ End with dead Wolfie Gauredain an’ injured companions as-is without impartin’ preternatural excruciating psychic migraines by way of civil greetin’s! – Honestly, boy – What would your mother say?!”
The specter seemed more than slightly taken aback. ‘Least I were able to take a steadying breath.
“Arvedui, e’nt it?” I ventured. Me skull pounded with residual shock of ghostly ‘speech’ methods. But the sheer wall of anger an’ confusion blasting into me head abated. I ploughed ahead.
“Perianeth Cerdyfmir.” Figgered best start with Skinny Elf-Speech, as thar be what the apparition used. “Applecider the Hobbit. Progeny o’ the Honorable Thaddeus Bolingbroke and ‘Tilda Geranium Attwood of Brockenborings. A bard o’ the Harp, Lute, Fiddle an’ Pipe: At your service, an’ that o’ yer Issue, an’ their Kin. Includin’ this here gent.” I indicated Mister Lothrandir’s unmoving form. “An’ if’en yer Kingship’d be agreeable ter lettin’ me see to me friend, perhaps we could address whatever be amiss?”
I were out on a limb, as I genuinely be unsure what a Ghost be capable of doin’ to the Living, if he were properly ticked off.
But either he were defused by hearin’ friendly speech, or I’d attained command o’ the situation via shock tactics. I rolled up me proverbial sleeves an' marshaled me resources.
* * *
Turnin’ over a bloke o’ Mister Lothrandir’s stature were a labor. ‘Specially with Ellie an’ Arvo anxiously tryin’ to lick ‘im. He’d taken a broad swipe runnin’ the full diagonal of ‘is chest. As the Big Lad were wearin’ mail, though, it did ‘im no ‘arm apart from ruining a perfectly good surcoat.
Less luckily, he’d taken another swipe to the leg. It bled copiously: I cinched it with the Big Lad's own sword-belt. An’ while the Wolfie Gauradan may’ve failed to connect with ‘is jugular, he’d been handily bit in the shoulder as well.
We’d stowed the sledge a bit of a distance from the site, out o’ respect. But the arrival o’ Wolf-Men showed this lonely pack-ice were fair game for whoever wanted to come by. Thar were nothin’ to do but hightail it back, where I found the rest o’ the dogs straining at the leads, not knowin’ what’d become of us. With ample canine aid, I hauled the sledge back to the wreck.
People always peg bards for softies.
For the life o’ me, I can’t think why. We be the ones the big brawny fighters always be shieldin’ while they bellows “Get behind me!” or such. So stands to reason WE be the ones who get stuck patchin’ the great meat slabs back up after.
Slittin’ the Big Lad’s trouser seam from ankle to hip, I put forty-three stitches in ‘is thigh. Then eleven in ‘is shoulder, in two places. The contusion on the back of ‘is head were treated with ice. Which (I have to say) we ‘ad no short supply of.
The patience o’ Mister Arvedui King-Ghost were a wild card: I were unsure how long I had till he got antsy again. But – perhaps seein’ the effect his “voice” had on me head – perhaps fearin’ I’d recoil an’ hurt the Dúney-lad afresh – the specter hovered without a word, watchin’ with a sad kinda helpless concern. Not till I were sealin’ up the lesions in linen an’ witch-hazel paste did ‘e venture to try communicatin’ again.
I were still acclimatin’ to the mental dialogue. But seein’ I were friendly, Mister King-Ghost seemed to be able ter convey ‘imself without All The Feelin’s Ever, an’ I thanked ‘im for it.
We were alone for the moment. I trusted the dogs to warn us if Iron Crownies or more Wolf-Men were nearby. But we needed backup at this point.
I penned a hasty message. Maddie knew what that meant. She were torn betwixt annoyance at the cold errand (night were well underway by now), an’ puffin’ with pride at her usefulness.
“Did you loose up Arvo an’ Ellie’s leads?” I scritched Maddie’s tiny head, cooing. “Did you send us big ferocious dogs to fight nasty Wolf-Men in a pinch? You did, didn’t you? – I know thar were you. – En’t you clever. En’t you the cleverest chickie that ever flew.”
She flittered an’ chirred: Pride in One’s Work won the day.
“Gwil-na i naugrim, luv. Fly to the Beardie Dorfs. Mister Ofráth, if he be about. In Zigilgund thar be toasty fires an’ tasty ice-lizard tidbits for hungry clever birds. Send us some burly Dorfs, quick as they’ll come.”
Mister King-Ghost watched me launch Maddie westward with her note. He almost looked envious. Maybe he enjoyed hawking, once upon a time.
“Thar,” I says, much more collected. “Now. Yer Kingship’s been proper patient, so how’s about I meet yeh halfway. I gots ter clean this lot,” I looked at our extricated weapons. “While I does, yeh could expound upon yer thoughts from earlier ... P’raps in a measured manner if possible: yeh really hurts me head when yeh gets angry. – An’ I sees yer fair angry ‘bout some’ut.” (Always recognize hurts if yeh wants to mollify ‘em). “I dinnae ken whether I’d be of any help. But let’s hear what’s what, aye?”
“You shall hear it,” The apparition replied. “But look to my Brethren.”
Mister Lothrandir were stirrin’.
I won’t say as I envied ‘im.
It be bad enough waking in the snow with unanesthetized claw wounds an’ a headache yeh wouldn’t wish on anyone less than Golfimbul of Gram. Let alone before yeh factor in seein’ the Ghost o’ yer Chief Gaffer’s grandfather-fifteen-times-over staring down at yeh.
I also won’t say ‘is headache were ameliorated by Mister Arvedui King-Ghost’s greetings. Even in a peaceable state, havin’ words projected into one’s brain be a trial.
The dogs didn’t exactly help either. They were delighted to see their keeper tryin’ to sit upright: far more excited by the prospect of a jolly puppy pile than they were about Mister King-Ghost.
They seemed oddly unbothered by him. Lucky dogs.
Once I’d dragged all six of ‘em off Mister Lothrandir long enough for him to sit up, an’ brought out some vittles, most of ‘em eventually settled down, curlin’ up together for body heat.
I badly wanted a fire. An’ Mister Lothrandir could've used a hot cup o’ soothin’ tea. But that would’ve been the dumbest move we could’ve done: Light comin’ from within the ship ... Smoke risin’ from the wreck ... anyone up on the tundras would see it were inhabited.
So we bundled into camp blankets an’ partook of what indulgences we had, in the form of smoked reindeer, cram, an’ Lossoth tater-spirits. Mister King-Ghost o’ course felt no cold an’ could nae hunger, but his apparition settled lower to ground.
“So,” I says. “What be goin’ on here, then?”
* * *