THE CATHEDRAL OF KNOWN THINGS (part 11)

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-Forty Years Earlier-

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-Forty Years Earlier-

Conversation was limited as the group headed deeper into the forest, the Aelfirian guide speaking least of all. Leading the way, she kept the pace of their progress slow for Denton, who grumbled now and then about his old legs and aching joints.

Marney opened herself to her surroundings, dropped her emotive defences, and allowed the sights and sensations to wash over her. She chuckled to herself as she waved away curious insects, and savoured the texture of the bark beneath her hand, and the smell of dirt and moss that stained her skin. Sturdy roots weaved in and out of the forest floor like dead tentacles. Above, through the thick green canopy that whispered in the damp breeze, sunlight winked between gaps in grey clouds. The Trees of the Many Queen was a good House, a peaceful forest, and it seemed far from the troubles that might be waiting ahead for Marney and her mentor.

The terracotta jar that had contained the essence of Fabian Moor had been found in a mysterious House called the Icicle Forest. Van Bam and Angel were on a mission to Mirage, to investigate an Aelf called Ursa, the one responsible for transporting the jar to the Labyrinth and reanimating Moor's essence. Marney and Denton's mission was to learn more about the Icicle Forest.

Even Lady Amilee had no information about that place. It was thought to be a Genii stronghold, a secret House hiding in the Nothing of Far and Deep, where Spiral plotted and planned against the Timewatcher. If the location of the Icicle Forest was to be revealed, if any information on this enigmatic House existed, then Lady Amilee believed it would be found at the Library of Glass and Mirrors.

The task ahead of Marney suddenly seemed so daunting that the beauty of her location became as dull as the sky.

After an hour of walking, the humidity broke and the temperature dropped. A fine drizzle misted the air and collected on leaves, dripping down on the travellers. After another hour, the light began to dim and the drizzle turned to hard rain. When Denton asked for a rest, the Aelf led the empaths to a log shelter with one exposed side, standing beside a forest stream. A ring of stones had been laid with dry wood on the shelter floor, and the Aelf set it ablaze with tinder and flint. She then took a black iron kettle from a hook on the wall, filled it with water from the stream, and hung it over the flames to boil.

The Aelf left the empaths alone, saying that she needed to scout the area. Marney suspected that in truth, she just didn't want to overhear anything they might discuss of their mission. Alone and soaked to the skin, the empaths sipped green tea and feasted on hard oatcakes.

'I'm really not cut out for this kind of lark, anymore,' Denton grumbled as he rubbed his knees. 'Not sure that I ever really was, to be honest.'

Marney said nothing and stared into the flames.

'I wonder how the others are getting on,' Denton said after a while. 'I've been thinking about them. You?'

Marney looked at him. 'Hmm?'

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