Eleventh Chapter, Second Part: Revelations

999 94 18
                                    

Misery's proximity meant that Iris didn't get to do more than shoot irate glares at the Pumpkin Prince until they reached a courtyard of silver-blue pillars and arches in the middle of a field. They both sat down at the vine-choked fountain at the island-courtyard's center, and spirit gestured that they could talk. If he had hoped that Iris had calmed down during their scurried journey, her outburst proved him wrong.

"You mean you've been Dignity this whole time?!" Iris screeched, only just keeping her arms from bursting into flames. "Doesn't that seem like the sort of thing you should have mentioned? Like, hey, I can help you on your quest because I am literally your quest? Or hey, by the way, just a small thing about me, I'm actually the ruler of this realm, thought you ought to know? Would that have been so hard?!"

Dignity sighed into a gnarled hand. "It just didn't seem prudent to mention."

"Oh, okay, if it didn't seem prudent then that's fine." Iris ran her hands through her new hair and let out an angry cat sound. "Okay. Fine. You had your reasons. So what are we going to do about," Iris gestured at the dilapidated courtyard and the realm around them, "all of this?"

"Fix it?" he suggested weakly.

Iris narrowed her eyes at him. "If you're not going to be helpful, you can just go. Or, well, don't, because I still need to get you on the throne and unbound." She tilted her head to the side. "I don't suppose just getting you on the throne will do anything? Like, there's no magical healing power in it?"

"It's not that simple, no. To restore me to the throne would imply that the governorship of this realm was again in order, which means its rulers were again in check. I believe your quest is no less than to restore harmony to this realm by restoring harmony to its leaders."

"Oh, well, if it's only that, then that's fine. I thought it might be something difficult, like saving the entire realm of Death from the weight of its own entropy." Moaning, Iris flung herself back onto the fountain's wide rim and stared up at the hazy purple sky.

There was a quiet for a moment, and then Dignity, solemn and sincere, said, "I will help you in every way I can, Candlemaiden. All my knowledge and all of my regrettably curtailed powers are at your service."

"Well," Iris reasoned, still staring at the sky and wishing for shapeless clouds to name, "it's a start."

***

For the next few hours, Iris quizzed Dignity on the particulars of Harkenhilt. Her hope of recruiting Madness and Denial to their quest was shot down; both were too much of what they embodied to be of any use, especially with the realm in such disarray. She learned that Dignity and Misery did most of the ruling, or they had. Ruling Death, as it turned out, mostly entailed wandering the realm and conversing with the spirits therein. There were also hierarchies among the guardians to maintain, breaches to patch, and the occasional sanctioned foray into the realm of the living.

"It's her necklace," Dignity had said suddenly at that point. "She must have robbed the treasury of all the passage coins. She's using their power to pass freely between the worlds. Well, I imagine the cost has been her coherency."

There was little Iris could do to comfort him, so she just asked him about the courtyard they were in instead. Through his answer she learned that Harkenhilt was connected to other realms besides just that of the living, though he was chary of telling her the nature of the other realms. "It may not be your place to know," he said, "and it will not help us on our quest." Still, Iris found herself eyeing the arches of the courtyard and wondering where once they might have led.

They spoke of the realm over-long, and Iris realized that she was stalling. Finally, after Dignity recounted how and which festival days were celebrated in the realm, Iris stood up from the barren fountain and faced him.

Candlemaiden: The Stranger ShoreWhere stories live. Discover now