Saturday, February 04, 2006

Chapter the Twenty-second: The Decision

At the second mention of Lady Isapheria, Jonathan suddenly remembered it as one of Auntie Woezzl’s names. Could she be the same Lady Isapheria of whom Hermann spoke? He cast a puzzled look toward Fulsome and Scramble. It was Fulsome who summoned the courage to inquire.

“That is most unfortunate. Died of the plague, you say? Pity. Yet I seem to recall having met a blue jay in the Ulban Hills who made mention of an Isapheria who dwelt in Wolmsley Wood on the other side of Gwaeron Stream. There is surely no relation between the two…?”

Fulsome’s cautious suggestion brought a sudden and frightening change to the gnord’s countenance. Indeed, one could fairly consider him a fearsome gnord in spite of his hospitality.

“The Pretender!” he raged. “Yes, there is a relationship. Some woman from the Southlands, probably descended from the Figshevels, no less, has taken residence in the Wood, where she claims to be the late Lady Isapheria. She wins the confidence of the woodland creatures and prepares for the day when she can take over the Timnel and the Gardens for herself. I alone stand against her evil plots, preserving the Tower and keeping watch over the Gardens until a true thane of Isenwild should return. If the enchantments of the Gardens did not guard us against her spies, we should have been overrun long ago.

“But oh, my friends, the cruelest part is this, that she should dare to imitate my Lady.” At that, the gnord shed a large tear. Even Fulsome was moved by Hermann this time.

“Now, you must be weary of your travels and I have taken advantage of your kind attention on our tour. Come, let us nap before supper.” Hermann led them back down the stairs of the Tower to the second floor. As they passed the locked door, Jonathan noticed that the gnord stole a quick, nervous glance at it. The four finally approached a double door flanked by matching suits of armor. Hermann opened it, then bowed the trio into the room, saying, “These shall be your quarters during your visit with us. If you need anything further, I will be in the room at the end of the hall. Supper will be at eight o’clock.” With that the gnord retired and left the three to settle in to their lodgings.

They found themselves in a connecting suite of four rooms, with Persian rugs scattered about to cut the chill of the stone floors. The curtains and bedspreads were of an olive green brocade, as were the seats and backs of the chairs. The Gorcester arms, a pig rampant surrounded by five sets of crossed cudgels, was embroidered in gold threat in the center of the bedspreads and the back cushions of the chairs. In the corner or each bedroom was a table with porcelain basin and pitcher for ablutions and neatly laid pale green towels. Large mirrors provided not only utility but the illusion that the rooms were larger than they were. Long wooden chests at either end of the central room were covered with sheepskins, dyed a muted yellow, and these invited lounging. Such lodgings were fit for aristocrats and our heroes, grateful as they were for a place to rest, found themselves a bit intimidated by it all.

“Do you suppose he’s telling the truth?” Scramble asked, launching the topic on each one’s mind.

“I just don’t know,” Jonathan sighed wearily. “Everything seems so confused right now.”

“Do you think the parasol is in that room?” Fulsome queried.

“Something is. I’m certain of that. Something Hermann wants kept there.”

“Then maybe we should find out.”

“But I don’t want to hurt him. He’s really such a decent chap.”

“If we can take the parasol without an encounter, so much the better. But if not, I’m afraid we may have to.” Fulsome’s realism did not make Jonathan feel any better.

“Before he hurts us,” Scramble added.

“Provided we have agreed to take the world of your Auntie Woezzl, Grubbley.”

There was a long silence as all three adventurers stared down at the carpet, seemingly lost in its intricate patterns.

“I suppose we must,” Jonathan said at last. “Else, I do not know how I shall ever break the enchantment of the Wood and return home.”

The others nodded slowly.

And so they planned and plotted much and rested little until suppertime.


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