8. Her Grangran's Secret
That day they had covered alot of ground, not stopping to eat that afternoon. The dogs were satisfied with the distance gained from the gentlemen. An hour after sunset they set up camp. The clearing they were resting in was a well-used stop. There were the remains of a small fire pit, made of heaps of ash and coals.
Bryn and Lidia shared their rations with the brothers instead of letting them hunt. The dog-brothers needed to save their strength. While they tore through their dinner, Lidia had volunteered to gather firewood, she hardly had to leave the clearing they were resting in, dried wood was found everywhere around them.
As Lidia was walking back, an arm full of wood, she had a question, “How far do you think we are from Rove Passage?”
Bryn was feeding Eyelag and Nimble when Lidia returned and stood up to face her sister. “I would say another day, perhaps two. You know which river we must pass through? You know how to find our family?” Bryn had assumed as much before, she only wanted to confirm it out loud.
Lidia only got as far as a nod before Lorn, who had stood as Lidia was entering the camp, approached her from behind.
“Full day, if we ride hard ’morrow,” Lorn said without looking at either of them. He took Lidia’s burden to bend down in front of the blackened mound of charred wood with nothing else to say. He built a mound for a proper fire. He pulled out a lighter from his pocket and had the fire warming the area.
Not for the first time Bryn wondered what happened to objects that were in one of the brother’s pockets when he turned into a dog.
Lidia returned to her belongings to check on Burnt who was laying down, licking his wounded shoulder.
Tory sidled up to Bryn, almost nervously as he continued to glance at Lidia, who was absorbed in cooing over Burnt’s wounds.
“Ya’r sister smells odd,” Tory whispered by Bryn’s head.
“You think she smells odd,” Bryn asked, already mentally prepared for whatever was about to come out of Tory’s mouth.
Tory nodded, sympathetically, “Smells like dog more than dragon.”
“That’s because she’s always around dogs. She’s raised them since she was little. It was her way of coping with the loss of dragons. Before they were taken she had always wanted to be a dragon tamer, like our papa. I know you would all like her, if you tried not judging her by smell.”
Tory gave Bryn an odd look that she could not read. He moved back to his brothers without a word, still glancing at Lidia uneasily. All of the brothers, except Kai, did. They would glance at her like they did not know how to act.
Lidia and Bryn migrated to the fire, and sat together, not saying very much, but enjoying the comforting warmth and each other’s company. Their peace was abruptly disturbed when they heard the brothers shouting Nudd’s name. Both Bryn and Lidia twirled to see Titen and Lorn chasing Nudd as he scrambled around the campsite to get away from them.
Nudd had stolen both Titen’s and Lorn’s mostly eaten portion of dried meat, because he was still hungry. Now he was fleeing with his booty clutched in his fists.
The sisters watched the chase casually. Lidia leaned closer to her sister to whisper, “Is that normal?”
“I would not know. This is my first time seeing this,” Bryn replied.
After considering them a moment, and seeing that the disturbance was not going to end any time soon, Lidia stood up to walk to her saddle bags. Burnt was barking at the riled up brothers, too exhausted to join the excitement. Lidia hushed her dog as she searched through a bag and pulled out a chunk of fattening meat. She had to still her dog, as he grew eager and expectant at the smell of such a treat. Lidia placed herself in the middle of the camp, where Nudd would eventually run around to. As the culprit neared, she held the piece of dried meat at nose height. Nudd immediately changed course and circled around her. The brothers stopped pursuing a few feet away from her to see what would happen.
Lidia lifted her hand as if to pass her meat to Nudd. He eagerly went to snatch it from her as quick as a snapping jaw. Lidia’s reflexes were just as fast and she pulled away a second before he could nab it.
“Give the meat back to your brothers and you can have it,” Lidia said as she looked Nudd in the eye.
With only a moment’s hesitation Nudd tossed the meat into Titen’s hands, who glanced up, astounded.
With a quick smile Lidia freely gave the meat to Nudd. With a more gentle reach this time Nudd accepted the gift from her and went on his way, satisfied.
Lidia went back to sit by the fire. Bryn’s face was covered with surprise, shock and admiration as she stared at her little sister.
“Whoo, sister! Good idea.”
Lidia smiled proudly.
After Lidia’s way of handling Nudd so skillfully, the brothers opened up to be friendlier towards her. Hoping perhaps they could snage some treats that she evidently had stashed away.
Bryn felt at ease and relaxed for the first time since she had slipped from the train. Whether it was her sister joining them, or that she felt more secure with the brothers than before, she could not tell. It did not matter much to her any way. She felt safe and content for the time being and she was enjoying it.
Lidia requested to see the documents their grangran had left for them. Bryn produced them willingly. She even brought out the beaten up leather journal. Bryn thought perhaps Lidia wanted to see what grangran had been doing before she passed.
A wind began to pick up, rocking the trees around them. It did not bother the camp very much, since the trees protected them from the worst of it, still it did irritate the hair and clothes.
While the brothers were telling Bryn about how they snuck into a town hall as dogs and caused a riot just to get some fresh meat, Lidia had her orb in one hand, scanning the contents of the papers. She flipped through the will only glancing at each paragraph, even the little heartfelt piece their grandmother had written for Lidia was brushed off. Lidia then flipped through the journal, she stared intently at it for a long time, going through the pages and even going back over them. Lidia gave a frustrated huff of air before she flipped to the last pages of scribbles. She stared even more intently at the words, and mouthed along as much as she could understand. Their grandmother’s handwriting was not exactly the neatest one would come across.
When Lidia’s head shot up everyone was drawn to attention because of how abrupt it was. She scanned around as if she had forgotten where she was at that moment.
“Bryn, do you recognize this verse at all? His bones are tubes of bronze. His limbs are bars of irons.”
As soon as Lidia spoke those words, the wind gusted through the camp, as if it had purposefully slipped past the trees to get at them. Lidia had to stuff the loose papers under her jacket to keep them from blowing apart.
As Bryn was bracing herself against the gust, a feeling that she should know what Lidia had just read came over her. Bryn slightly shook her head, causing her hair to spray over her face as the wind caught hold. “I have never heard it.”
Lidia and Bryn looked to the brothers, their silence and lack of reaction meant they did not know either.
“Strange,” Lidia spoke, mostly to herself, “Perhaps she was writing a song or poem.”
The wind died down and Lidia flipped through the pages again. “Except I cannot understand the reasons for all these riddles she has in here. I mean most of them are easy and already answered. All the answers were compiled into the last pages.” As Lidia was speaking, she was flipping through the journal to handover to her sister.
It was random words put onto one page. Bryn flipped to the next page to see some of the same words were written into stringed sentences that made no sense.
Tory, who was sitting near Bryn, nudged closer to look over her shoulder as well. He said nothing as he stared, and Bryn hardly took notice of him.
Lidia let her sister contemplate it before speaking, “It is as if she was putting random riddles together to make a poetic verse. Why do you think she would do that?”
The wind started up again. Bryn closed the journal to hold it from blowing out of her hands as she held her jacket closed to keep warm.
“What odd weather,” Bryn commented as she watched the tops of the trees seesaw above them.
It was not until she had spoken that Bryn noticed the brothers were tense. She could tell because of a deep rumbling coming from each brother’s throat, as if they were about to bark at the wind.
“What’s the matter,” Bryn asked them.
“Ya speak of riddles, the wind rises. Som’ne don’t like ya’re talk of it,” Lorn replied glaring at the tops of the trees.
Lidia leaned in so her head was just over Bryn’s shoulder so she could whisper, “What is he talking about?”
Instead of whispering back, she addressed the others, “Lorn, are you saying a selest is causing the winds?”
“Not jus’ any selest,” Titen replied.
“Lass El,” Tory added.
“Lady El…” Lidia gasped, “You don’t think we found the—”
The wind came at them with a vengeance this time. It caused the fire to hide within the logs. Everyone held onto their belongings and clothing, planting themselves on the ground.
“I think you’re right,” Lidia shouted over the winds.
Within a few minutes the gusts died down again.
Kai immediately went to all fours as a wolverine and ran out into the darkness. Tory and Titen also morphed into dogs and ran off in separate directions.
“Mayhaps be attacked again,” Muir explained to the sisters as he watched his brothers disappear.
Lidia was hardly listening. She had grown ecstatic, “Did grangran find the riddle? Was it actually more than one riddle? How would she know that, and why did she not tell anyone?”
Bryn and Lidia looked each other in the eye. They both were thinking the same thing. Someone else had known.
“That’s why you cannot remember a whole month. You did know. You must have been helping gragran,” Lidia exclaimed in great excitement for solving two mysteries at once.
“Do you think so,” Bryn asked. It seemed far too coincidental to not be true.
“Why else would you lose so many memories,” Lidia theorized, “Perhaps Lady El took them herself, to stop you from finding the answers after grangran had passed. Maybe she even helped grangran pass on.” Lidia knew her last sentence was an unfair statement when there was no evidence that Lady El would kill someone over the dragons.
“Well,” Lorn said impatiently, “Let’s hear it and let the dragons free.”
“I don’t think it’s that simple,” Lidia said, trying to toss the windblown hair from her face.
Bryn finished explaining for her sister, “There are still answers missing, and perhaps riddles as well, and we have to put them all together.”
“Well?” Muir put in. It was a way of saying, ’get to work.’
Bryn gave Muir a look, as if she might stubbornly refuse just because he was being so impatient. Instead Bryn hunkered down and did in fact set to work, even with the pestering wind.
Bryn and Lidia shared the journal between them as they went through each riddle that had been written down. Most of the riddles, although different, had the same answers such as ’can’, ’the’, ’he’ and ’his’.
Bryn was clever when it came to puzzles and so handled most of those. While at some point Lidia had fetched her own notebook and was scribbling in it her own construction of the words.
An hour into staring at the pages, while the wind tossed around them, Lidia growled, while bent over the two journals, “How are we to know which order these words are supposed to be in?”
While the sisters had been slaving at the words, the brothers had been taking turns patrolling the area. There were always two of them in the camp at a time and they were watching over the sisters work with anticipation.
It must have been near midnight when Bryn finally caved. Her head was yelling at her through pain to get some sleep. She announced her need to rest and retreated to Eyelag’s side and her mat.
Lidia hardly paid attention except to wish her sister a sound and restful sleep. She was sitting cross legged with the paper on her lap and her orb in one hand, absorbed in the scribbles. She was weary as well, but so intent on her work that she could not pull herself away.
The brothers that were in the camp stayed up with Lidia for as long as they could bear. They sat with her, watching over her and those that slept. Slowly, one by one the brothers dropped to sleep, until it was their turn to take patrol. Lidia stayed wide awake for another few hours. She kept telling herself she would sleep after one more line, one more correction, one more idea. She continued telling herself that until the lines became blurs to her drooping eyes. Finally, slipping from the brothers protective and warm circle that was stacked around her. Lidia made her way to her corner of the clearing. Both were sleeping deeply and did not even stir when she lay between them. Too tired to pull out her sleeping sack, she snuggled herself between the dog and mattath. Her mind was so wound up with thinking for so long that it took her longer than she would have liked to drift off to sleep. Even her dreams were all about words and poetry that floated in front of her eyes.
The next morning Bryn and the brothers were awaken with the sun. Burnt was even pacing around the camp, smelling everything in sight as he waited for his master to feed him. Lidia, however, did not stir with the noises of the morning. She mumbled in her sleep, but otherwise showed no signs of awakening.
“Should be mak’n ground,” Muir said, not sure if it was safe to grumble in Bryn’s presence about her sister.
Bryn sighed as she finished off her breakfast of dried meat and flat bread, Muir was right.
“She’s a heavy sleeper, a storm could be pouring over her and she would not awaken,” With that said, Bryn made her way to her sister and bent into a crouch position beside Lidia’s head.
“Lidia, we must keep moving. You have to move on. We are in a hurry, remember,” She said in a normal tone, not unkindly, but not gently either.
Lidia groaned and rolled onto her side, covering her face with her bent arm. “I don’t want to.” She muttered.
“We don’t want to be ambushed again,” Bryn gave her sister a couple of shakes on the shoulder. It resulted in Lidia feebly attempting to swat at Bryn’s hand.
“Let them try,” She muttered again in a threatening way.
“I’ll set the brothers on you. They are more impatient than I,” Bryn warned.
Lidia’s eye slowly opened a sliver. “Is that so?” She considered challenging that threat, but decided that moving on was in their best interest and so forced herself to sit upright. She patted and shook her hair out, slamming her goggles over her head. Lidia’s eyes did not succeed in staying open, not until Burnt hurried over and almost knocked the girl to hr side in his enthusiasm for breakfast.
Despite her sluggish state, Lidia was packed and saddled in no time, snacking on her dried meat as she worked. She was ready before the others even realized. Even Bryn still had a few things to secure before they could leave.
“I like ’er,” Titen said with a smile before he bent over.
Kai nodded to agree before he also changed forms.
Bryn, who had overheard the few words spoken, could not help but smile, proud of her little sister for making such an impression so quickly.
Once they had started on a good pace Lidia pulled out her small leather notebook.
“Here,” Lidia called her sister, “See how I did with my attempt at piecing the words together.” She tossed the leather under handed to Bryn who just managed to catch it in her lap with one hand. She used one hand to steer and the other to hold the book open.
Lidia spoke as Bryn was scanning the pages, “I have blanks in the places I thought words were missing from the missing answers. I also think there are a few riddles missing, but perhaps we could fill in the blanks ourselves. I am not even sure that is the order the lines are supposed to be in or if the lines are correct at all. I thought perhaps we could find it in a book if we cannot solve it by the time we reach the family.”
Bryn scanned the lines, she was no poet, but knew enough songs and poems to think it must be close.
“You did well,” Bryn praised.
“Excellent. Read it out loud,” Lidia eagerly suggested.
“What would that do?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps you can fill in the blanks as you read.”
“Why didn’t you try?”
“I did last night, but I was too tired to make any progress. I need a fresh pair of eyes and ears.”
Bryn could not argue with that. With a deep breath she read the following lines, finding a rhythm as she read, but also halting at the missing words.
Can anyone capture him awake?
Can anyone throw him?
Can anyone pierce him with___?
His strength is in his jaws;
And his ___ is in muscles of his belly
His bones are tubes of bronze,
His limbs are bars of iron
He swings his tail like a ___
The mountains bring him ___
And all the ___ of the fields play there
Under the stones he is covered with shade
The trees and the brooks surround him
If an ocean rages he is not alarmed;
He is confident, the waters caved.
As soon as she had finished Bryn closed the book. “It is a very strong start—”
Her words were cut off by a gigantic roar that shook the forest and caused everyone to falter in hair raising terror. The overbearing noise bore into everyone’s soul, making them quack and unable to move.