It was a bitter night. The stars were cold and the occasional dark cloud drifted across a bright moon.
Olwen had dismounted to lead their horse through the mists that obscured the hiding place of the Wizards. But once they had reached the valley, even in the dark Andra could tell the place was deserted.
The only light was a distant blue crackle on the far mound and the only sound was a soft thrum that made the hair tingle on the back of her arms. She drew her sword. It would be next to useless against most Wizards and she trusted that Olwen was strong enough to protect her. But even so, it was not in Andra’s nature to approach an enemy enclosure unprepared.
They reached the Tor unchallenged. But when the pair cautiously entered they heard footsteps descending the stone stairs.
“It’s no use coming back-” a man’s voice said as if continuing a conversation. But when he saw them, he stopped abruptly and his eyes widened, “You!” he stammered looking straight to Olwen and stumbling backwards up the steps.
Olwen glanced at Andra, and there was a look of both triumph and delight in her pale, whitened eyes. “So, Myrddym has been here.”
“I-I don’t know what you mean.” The man turned to escape, but Andra took off after him. Taking the steps two at a time she grabbed his robes and pulled him back down to the entrance hall.
He resisted, blasting her with his magic. Had he been a woman, Andra would have been thrown across the room, as it was, the blast barely made her stumble. But he wasn’t strong enough to force her to let him go.
“You have always been weak, Raspian. Weak.”
Andra held him steady as Olwen drew close.
“Your eyes!” he whispered.
Olwen smiled. “Weak, but not a fool.”
“You madwoman,” he scolded, and Andra was surprised at his courage. Alone and only capable of the palest form of magic, the man was at their mercy. “what have you done?”
“I have done what was necessary,” Olwen spat. She ran her finger down Raspian’s cheek as he squirmed against Andra’s firm grip. “Now, you will tell me where she has taken the Wizards.”
Andra had seen the power of Olwen’s magic. She had witnessed her kill more than once, but it seemed he did not understand the danger he was in. Andra shook him as he laughed, taking her sword and pressing it against his throat. He coughed, but his merriment did not abate.
“The Wizards left days ago,” his voice was hoarse, and Andra loosened her grip enough for him to speak freely. “They fled rather than stand their ground, Olwen, and you can’t defeat them if they’re gone.” He laughed again, but this time Olwen laughed with him.
“Then you are alone, Raspian.”
He writhed in Andra’s grip as Olwen lay a hand upon his cheek. He cried out as her magic coursed through him. Olwen pulled away and laughed again.
“You’ve won,” he said, breathing hard, “the Wizards are gone, Myrddym has fled, and I have word that our Druid brethren kneel at your feet,” he coughed, “What more can you want?”
Andra felt a rise of hope in her stomach; if he was telling the truth, if the Wizard’s really had left, and Myrddym had followed, then it was finally over. They were on the run. Her army could cut them down as they fled.
She looked up at Olwen, expecting joy and relief but her pale eyes shone with anger and contempt.
Suddenly Olwen clutched Raspian’s face. He cried out and became lighter in Andra’s arms. She let him go, stepping back from the pair as the man’s golden aura seeped from his body, surrounding him as his feet raised impossibly from the ground. It was almost as if he were lifted by the slight strength of Olwen’s grip upon his chin.
But then he collapsed to the floor. An unmoving heap that was once a man. Olwen breathed hard, a smile on her lips and the gold of her eyes shone. “I want everything, Raspian.”
Andra opened her mouth to speak. She wanted to ask what had just happened. What had Olwen just done? How had she done it? But her throat wouldn’t give voice to her questions.
“Do you believe him?” Olwen snapped.
“I…” Andra stared at Olwen’s new bright eyes, then shook her head trying to focus on the dead man’s words. “I think a person will say anything when in pain… but… if the wizards were planning to fight he surely would have used that knowledge to bargain for his life.”
Olwen nodded. Andra’s suggestion seemed to appeal to her. She stood back then looked around at the cold, empty, tower. “Do you know how many tortured years I spent in these halls?”
“Too many.” Andra stepped over the body of the man, following Olwen as she glided toward the doorway.
“It seems I was a fool to fear them, they have scattered rather than face me in battle.” Olwen turned to her, a ready smile at her lips. “I am free.”
“But…” Andra hesitated, she knew no battle was over if the enemy had the chance to regroup, “What of Myrddym?”
Olwen shrugged, “Does it matter?”
“Do not discount her,” Andra warned, “I have known of a certain Wizard who hid away until she was ready to conquer her enemies.”
Olwen opened her mouth to speak, then hesitated before grinning widely. “It would give me no end of pleasure if you were to chase that Dwarf Bitch down and kill her like a dog.”
Andra gaped at her, Myrrdym had been strong enough alone to take down Olwen once before, and now she was expected to go after her with nothing but bronze and bravery? “She is a Wizard, and a powerful one at that.”
But Olwen laughed. “She is alone, Andra, she has no one with her but a weak little child that is frightened of her own Skill. Take soldiers with you if you must, chase her down, disarm her, then cut her down. She can’t kill you all.”
Andra nodded, but she couldn’t lift the knot forming on her brow, “you don’t wish to hunt her yourself?”
Olwen spun around, her gold eyes glinting in the dark. “I have wasted half my life being chased by that bitch, I do not intend to waste the other half chasing her. If you do not return, then I will assume you have failed me, and if you fail me now Andra, then you were never worthy of my love.”