Chapter Eighteen: Wherein I do an excellent job of tracking Elleena, the proof being that I find her.
I left immediately, rather than waiting until first light. This was not to Hysteria’s liking, but I had only to remind her of my now-empty purse to put her into her place, which is to say heading north through the cold night.
I traveled north, through the snowy wasteland that leads up to the great glacier Skagarack. It was rough going. The ground was snowy and beneath that, frozen. The way was steep and interwoven with deep ravines and mountainous boulders. In addition, there was no real clue as to the direction that I should travel.
I don’t mean to impugn the tracking ability of Ellwood Cyrene, which is to say, speak badly about her ability to follow things. I have seen her track down bandits, goblins, a rogue wizard, a demon, an immature dragon, and once, a bugbear assassin. Of course, almost all of these feats of stalking were accomplished before I had found out her great secret, which is to say that she is really Queen Elleena of Aerithraine. So, it might well be said that she was a better tracker as a man than as a woman. In any case, I am sure that she had something more to go on in her pursuit of the giants than I had in my pursuit of her. Blood trails perhaps. Alas, I had no such luck.
Fortunately, I needed no such clues. On my second night out of Fencemar, I was set upon by three frost giants, who attacked me in my sleep. Fortunately for them, I was sleeping soundly, and they had me securely tied about the wrists and ankles before I was fully awake. I was tossed into a very large cloth sack, though to be sure, to the giants, it was probably more of a medium-sized cloth sack, and was uncomfortably carried away, which is to say with my head and shoulders where my feet should have been and my feet where my head and shoulders should have been.
I could tell that we were moving northward, because I could sense that we were moving uphill, and it grew increasingly colder. The giants followed a leisurely pace, but being so long of stride, which is to say having really long legs, they covered a lot of ground very quickly. Before long, the bag was being unflung from the giant’s shoulder and dumped out, which meant that I was flung out of the bag, and as I had been upturned in the bag, I came out feet first. I have been tossed headfirst out of a great many places and things, and I can tell you that all in all, I prefer feet first.
Although I was happy to land on my feet literally, I didn’t land on my feet figuratively. By that, I mean that I landed in a cage. It was about ten feet square and about eight feet high, the only opening being a door in the top. It was a perfect cage if one was a giant. He could reach down into it without having to bend over. It wasn’t a bad cage if one expected to stay in it for any length of time. There was plenty of room to lie down and plenty of room to stand up. It was not a very good cage if one were planning to escape, since the exit was eight feet up, had a padlock on it, and was in a room with several giants. And it was a terrible room if one had a troubling relationship with Ellwood Cyrene, as she was locked in there too.
“Eaglethorpe,” she said.
“Elleena,” said I.
“I trust our daughter is safe,” she said.
“Both our daughters are safe,” said I. “Edna, who has been with me, is safe, and Ethyl, who has been living with you, or perhaps it would be better to say, who has been neglected by you, is also safe.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The girls switched places several days ago. Edna has been traveling with me, wearing cute little dresses, and having her hair put up in pigtails, while Ethyl has been traumatized by having to dress as a boy and have her hair cut.”
“My dear… Ethyl… was with me?” said Elleena, tears filling her eyes. “And I didn’t know it?”
“Yes,” I said. “Amazing, is it not? And after all the times you accused me of not paying attention to what was going on around me.”
At that, she burst into a full bout of crying, hands covering her face, and shoulders slumped and shaking.
“You’ve won the argument,” said a loud voice. “Now, don’t be a fool. Give her a hug.”
I looked through the bars of the cage to see Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir sitting on a stool, not far away.
“She does not want me to hug her,” I said.
“Of course I do!” wailed Elleena.
“Oh!” I said and threw my still bound arms around her.