Chapter Six: In which I remind the reader of just who Ellwood Cyrene is.
I looked at Ellwood Cyrene, her face lit by the light of the full moon. That’s right, I said “her face.” I had known Ellwood Cyrene for many years. We had fought side-by-side in countless adventures. And during all that time, I was under the impression that she was a he. She walked like a man. She talked like a man. She fought like a man. She pretended to be a man.
Then I found out that she wasn’t a man. I found out she was a woman. Then I found out that she wasn’t just a woman. She was a queen. The queen. She was Elleena Posthuma, Queen of Aerithraine, Guardian of the Faithful, Protector of the Realm, and… a whole lot of other things.
“I thought you were over all that,” she said.
“Over what you were just talking about, about me being the Queen and all that.”
“There are certain situations in which a man can get over all that,” said I, “and there are certain situations in which he can’t.”
“Well, what made it so intolerable all of a sudden?” she demanded.
“Oh, you well know what it was!” said I, striking an intimidating pose.
“You’re still angry that I wouldn’t marry you and let you be the king.”
“I never wanted to be the king. All I wanted was to live a long life with my resplendent and enticing, though somewhat robust and virile wife, to whom I was properly married, I might add, and my eight to twelve imaginative and perspicacious children, whom I also might also add would not be bastards, because I would have been married to their mother!”
“I see you got a new thesaurus,” she said.
“I would have been a great king!” said I.
She reached out a hand and stroked my face.
“Let’s not rehash this again. Let’s enjoy the time that we have. We could have a little family reunion.”
“I would,” spoke I, “but I am leaving posthaste, with… um, haste, which is to say, right away.”
“But I want… But I thought you would… What about…?”
“Spare me your half sentences. You have sentenced me enough to last a lifetime.”
With that, I turned and walked back into tavern. I didn’t even look back to see if she was looking at me. I had just stepped inside the door, when I ran into my daughter.
“Come. We must pack up and get out of town right now.”
“Yes, that is what I said. Right now.”
“Perhaps that is for the best,” she opined.
“Get our horses,” said I. “I will gather up our things.
I hurried up to our rooms and gathered our meager, which is to say small and not in any way many, possessions, returning to find Ethyl standing by the tavern’s entrance, nary a horse in sight.
“Where are our noble steeds?”
“They should be here in a moment,” she said. “I paid the tavern boy a silver coin to saddle them and bring them forth.”
“I thought you preferred to do that yourself,” I noted.
“Oh, um, yes… normally. Right now, I’m still a little shaky from the whole ordeal of the giant attack. I mean that it was an attack by giants, and not a giant attack, as in a big or large or Brobdingnagian attack, because as far as I know, it wasn’t more than four or five giants. And I’m not shaky because I was frightened either. It’s because I was excited. I felt a surge of adrenaline that I’m sure would have resulted in heroic efforts against the giants had I only been six or eight inches taller. Besides, given the location of this town, a silver coin placed in the pocket of the tavern boy might well do a great deal to build up the local economy and make it a more prosperous place to visit should we venture here again.”
“You must be filled with adrenaline,” I noted, “as heretofore, I don’t recall you ever speaking five sentences at one time, usually being prone to limit yourself to a few expletives, and here you’ve gone and spoken seven sentences all at once, and several of them quite long ones.”
“Um, darn tootin’,” said Ethyl.
The tavern boy arrived leading our two noble steeds, which is to say horses. They had been saddled and looked well-rested. My steed was the noble warhorse Hysteria, who had been my companion on countless adventures over the years. In truth, she was getting a bit long of tooth, which is to say old, but I would never tell her so, as it is impolite to discuss the age of ladies and horses and Hysteria was both. She was still capable of a good long gallop in full barding, which is to say armor for horses, though truth be told, I often had to promise some delicacy to be given in the future before she would demonstrate that capability. She was also prone to bouts of depression, which I attributed to her recently having given up both chewing tobacco and gambling, neither of which are appropriate for horses or ladies or lady horses. Ethyl’s mount was a pony, which is to say a small horse, but not small because it is young, but just small in general—a compact horse if you will. His name was Acrimony, and Ethyl had picked him out as a colt when she was only four years old. He was a light bay, which is to say brown, and was covered with a caparison, which is to say a cloth horse covering, emblazoned with the Dewberry coat of arms.
I quickly mounted Hysteria and watched as Ethyl attempted to do the same to Acrimony. He pranced around and even turned to snap at her, but she slapped him soundly on the top of the head and told him, “Knock it off, you!”
“Is he upset to be leaving in the middle of the night?” I asked.
“One might assume so,” Ethyl replied, climbing up into the saddle and pulling back on the reins.
Acrimony quickly fell into line, seeing who was in charge. If there is one thing that little girls know how to do, it is how to manage a horse.
“Come,” said I. “It is time for this town to see the back of us, which is to say, it’s time for us to go.”
“Yes, Father,” said Ethyl, and she gave me an odd look. “I’m so happy that we are together.”
This warmed my heart, for it was the first kind word that I had heard from the girl’s lips in a long time, or maybe ever.
“Me too,” said I.
And we rode off down the trail, into the wilds of the far north portion of The Fallen Lands, just south of the great glacier known as The Skagarack.