Caoimhe's Da looked down at his two daughters. They were no longer curled up around each other, but instead were sitting up and leaning towards him- waiting eagerly for him to continue the tale.
He didn't make them wait long.
"The Sorceress shifted her weight and let her hand reach into her coat with the palsy of an old woman and a painful hip that needed pressure.
She collected her thoughts to face down the last of the fae - the other seilie aos sí.
Moira sat up straighter and furrowed her brow. "Wait! The last fae? But we've only heard how the Sorceress faced down four of the fae, and I thought you said there were six!"
Caoimhe's Da smirked down at his bright and attentive daughter and held up his finger to have her wait just a moment - as though warning her that she had unwittingly jumped ahead.
As she contemplated her closing moves, her hidden fingers traced down the folded parchments in her hidden pocket.
..... 4? She was about to face down the last changeling, and there had been six on the dias when she arrived.
"See!" hissed Moira to her sister. "I told you so!"
Their Da nodded and continued over their whispered bickering, trusting that the tale itself would quiet them.
She went through the challengers she had faced - The Rus, the dark violet, The twins........
The Sorceress swept her gaze swept over the dias and it was only because she knew what she was "looking" for that she noticed.
There was a place on the dias that she didn't want to look - some sort of magic or illusion was forcing her to look away.
And so she made a point to force herself to look into the shadows that were likely made of pure fear.
"Lord of Secrets - King of Whispers who wears the cloak of fear - you know surely the last two tales now that I seek - for you of all people know what nightmares are singing with more power of late. You have seen the pattern no doubt."
The other five fae on the dais shifted with discomfort. The Sorceress' words to the obscured place in the fear shadows had drawn their focus there and it would seem that even they were effected by his powers.
"It is time you told the tale you would not before." the shadows whispered.
"He didn't agree to a deal!" Caoimhe hissed at her sister - to prove that she too was listening to the details. "She better not fall for the trap!"
"The Sorceress was not surprised that his voice came out so soft - nor was she surprised that he did not engage in wordplay as the others had done, or seemingly try to trick her. His direct demand for a particular tale in trade did not surprise her either - but she also saw the hidden pitfall in his demand.
"There is no need for you to shout King of Whispers - there is however need for you to agree to the trade before I tell the tale you request."
"Ha!" This time it was Caoimhe's turn to let out a cry of triumph. "See! Told you!"
"The unseilie aos sí let out a grumble of disappointment that the Sorceress hadn't fallen for the subtle trap and it belied a sort of familiarity of tactics. It made the Sorceress think that the aos sí must know the hidden sluagh.
"I see the pattern." he said in a voice softer than all the others. "I agree to the trade. One of the two tales you still seek - for the tale I have requested."
The Sorceress trusted the fae with the soul of the restless dead. His very nature made him evil, troublesome and destructive after all - and so she asked "And should you break the agreement?"
The tendrils of fear lashed out like the angry arms of an invisible giant squid shot by a harpoon - he was so insulted by her challenge.
"What price would you set? Name it and I shall accept."
The Sorceress saw the smugness from the Rus and from the dark violet lady - they knew this ploy of his - trusted that it would work. Their body language shifted and she could tell that they expected her to not have enough information about the sluagh she still could not see directly to come up with a forfeit that he would not be willing to pay.
She watched them a few moments longer.... and noticed that while they knew his ploy, and thought it would work.... they did not respect it.
.... they had fallen for it - all of them.
King of Whispers.... why had she even known to call him that??
.... oh dear Goddess... it was so obvious.... he had blackmailed them all to get his seat on the dais!
"If you break the agreement, your forfeit shall be to relinquish all proof you have on all those present on the deeds you are currently or might in future blackmail them with."
The fear tendrils vanished and suddenly, she could clearly see the very shocked looking small mime in the 5th chair.
..... well no wonder they didn't take him seriously without his collection of dangerous secrets.
"I will not pay that price" his eyes were nearly bugging out with the effort it took him to reach that volume - he was furious.
"Than you had best not break our trade agreement, for by your word you have already accepted it."
"Who are you to dare to make such demands - to come here at all to ask for these tales!"
"I am the Lantern Bearer."
If a pin had dropped, it would have echoed as loud as a pirate cannon in the silence of the room. Instead of a cannon pin though, it was a thunderclap of a gasp from the collected assembly.
The mime, stunned, flopped back into his chair and nodded dumbly that he accepted her named price of forfeit."
"Da... what's the Lantern Bearer?"
Caoimhe's Da opened his mouth hesitantly to begin to explain, but their mother's voice cut through his hesitation like a dagger from the shadows.
"No. You're not old enough for that tale - neither of you."
"It is enough to know that it is a position from ancient times - one of great power and heavy responsibility. It is an ancient role that even the eldest of the Fae must respect."
Caoimhe's Da looked over his daughters. Their mother's stern and unarguable refusal had paled them. They nodded to him in understanding, hoping for him to continue past this latest awkwardness.
"The mime stared at the Sorceress. She could feel his eyes boring into her - but it was Dúnmharú next to her who recovered first.
"Shannon.... you never told me that."
The Sorceress' old & tired frame shook with amusement. "You never asked."
"WHY THE HELL WOULD I EVER ASK THAT!!!"
A screaming whisper cut through the echo of Dúnmharú's outburst. "Enough. I would have my story...... Lantern Bearer."
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