Gwydd Palepole stood on the hill, and shivered. As a boy he’d heard rumors of falls and winters by the Murkenmere, but he’d never believed the stories, of cold and storms that appeared out of nowhere. It sounded fantastic for a young boy from the pleasant lands of White Pine.
These winds were making understand it was all true. Oh, was it ever true. He glanced at the rather shoddy tents that lay in the valley before him, and felt a bit of sympathy for the poor men in them. It was an odd sympathy, as he’d probably be trying to kill them shortly, but still…
Well, damn it, a man shouldn’t die cold.
“Hey! Palepole!” came Faileuba’s voice. The Erl quickly came up beside him. “You’ve got to come back in! They’re breaking out this local wine…” She shut her eyes and smacked her lips. “It’s amazing. You don’t even have to sugar it…” She glanced at him. “Okay. What’s wrong? You look all pencil.”
Gwydd turned to regard her. “Pencil?”
“You know… full of thoughts!” she said. “Like a pencil is, before a writer uses it to scrawl something down.”
“I think the word you want is ‘pensive’,” said Gwydd.
Faileuba considered things. “Nah. I like ‘pencil’ better. Sounds… neater!” She peered closely at him. “So now that you’re done deflecting my earlier question--answer. What’s wrong?”
Gwydd shrugged. “I’m cold.”
“HA!” snapped Faileuba. “Head down to the southern end of the Wastes and then you’ll know cold. This is just a mild chill!”
“You’ve been to south of the Wastes?” muttered Gwydd.
Faileuba blinked at that. “No. No, I haven’t. Further, if you are ever asked, you will swear that I have never, ever been there. Nor really been anywhere near there. Ever. Understood?” Gwydd nodded. “So--real answer now. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know, Fai,” said Gwydd. “This… this isn’t like our usual jobs. It’s war. It’s bigger than us, and that scares me.”
Faileuba waved her hand. “Trust me, Gwydd--at the end of the day, it’s just a bunch of people shaking things at each other, and then trying to stab each other. Like any other feud.”
“And you would know this how?” asked Gwydd.
“Mmmm… I wouldn’t, due to all those places that I most assuredly haven’t been, and you must painstakingly deny my ever having been there,” answered Faileuba. She spread her hands. “I’ve been around some.” She smiled at him. “Now--tell you what! I know a simple trick to get you to cheer up. Or at least to get your mind off all this scary stuff!”
Gwydd quietly stepped away from her. “I believe I’ll pass…”
“Ahh, but it’ll really help you!” Faileuba declared.
“Your phrasing doesn’t win my confidence,” said Gwydd.
“Holdfast’s let me do it to him hundreds of times!” she declared. “And it always works!”
“Yeaaaah… unlike Meliadus, I don’t believe in mixing business and…” began Gwydd.
Faileuba stared at him in shock. “What? I’m not talking about THAT! Especially not with you!” She shuddered. “Man, you Goblins have filthy minds…” She pointed at him. “I am insulted. You have insulted me.”
“And I shouldn’t be offended by what you just said?” noted Gwydd.
“Nope. You brought it on yourself.” Faileuba crossed her arms, and shut her eyes. “For that I won’t do my little trick to buoy your spirits, unless you ask me.” She let one eye peep open. “Very nicely.”
Gwydd considered letting it lie at that, but somehow he felt getting things over with might be his best bet. “Very well, Fai. I am sorry. Show me your wondrous, magical trick for restoring my spirits.”
Faileuba gave a bow. “But of course, Palepole.” She straightened herself, brought one finger to her lips, and licked it. And then, as Gwydd tried to puzzled out what she meant by all this, she darted forward, stuck it in his right ear and wiggled it.
“Ahhhh!” Gwydd pulled back. “What was that?”
“My trick!” said Faileuba gleefully. “Feeling better now!”
“If by ‘better’, you mean ‘furious’, then yes,” he growled.
“Told you it always worked!” proclaimed Faileuba.
“Hey, Fai,” said Meliadus as he approached them. “Did you tell Palepole about the wine?”
Faileuba nodded. “Yes, and then I raised his spirits through my patented method.”
“Ahh.” Meliadus glanced at Gwydd. “She did the ear thing to you, eh?”
Gwydd bit his lip. “Mmmm-hmmm.”
Meliadus nodded. “Well--look at this way--you are definitely no longer depressed, aren’t you?”
Gwydd considered this for awhile. “You two deserve each other, you know that?”