Caewen nodded and considered her options. She might ask whether Fafmuir could be trusted, or what Fafmuir was up to, assuming he was up to anything. Or she could ask why that assassin was at the moot. Perhaps, who hired the assassin? Although, that would be a wasted question if he had not been hired but was merely working to his own ends. For that matter, she still wanted to know whether someone was responsible for letting the wurum out of its cage? Or had that really just been an accident? And then, there were all the strange warnings from the phantoms in the maze. She might ask: why is the moot in danger? What threatens it? Or, who is the Winter King? Or, what is the Winter King? Or, is the Winter King threatening the moot? Or, why is he gathering armies? Wait. She didn’t truthfully know if he was building armies. She only had Tamsin’s word for it, and Tamsin was dead, and who knows how honest she had been. If the Winter King is planning war, then how can he be stopped? Can he be stopped? What could she say to convince the moot that there is a serious threat?
She turned all these questions over in her head, examining each one, thinking through the implications of each of them. Finally, she wetted her lips, then said, slowly and carefully, “How might I save the moot from its current danger?”
“Ah,” replied the goddess. “There are several ways. You might save the moot if you could convince everyone to flee before the last day of the gathering. You could find the pale assassin and stop him from undertaking the last of his tasks. You could find a person, mage, spirit or being who has a power of speech that would allow for calming or assuaging of serpents, dragonets, drakelings, wurums and the suchlike, but they are now in short supply hereabouts.” A smile. “You could recover the sea ivory box that was stolen from the Nibelungs and return its contents. You could steal all the treasures and gifts of the moot’s last day and remove them from harm’s sphere. Those would be the most straightforward paths visible to us. For though we do not know the precise details of all the trackways in the woods of time, those are somewhat clearer.”
“H’m. Some of that is mysterious to me, but some of the things seem easier than others. Here is my second question then, what is in the Nibelung’s stolen box?”
“That is beyond our sight. The weaves do not permit us to see within the box, for it is well-warded and guarded against all unnatural senses, be it sorcerer’s sight, scryer’s arts or clear visions. We cannot answer precisely. We know only that it was stolen, and danger might be averted if it were returned. We have given that answer already, therefore you may ask another question.”
Caewen gave the hue-shifting goddess a quizzical look. “That’s awfully nice of you. I thought creatures that answer questions in threes are more jealous of their answers than that. They always are in stories.”
“Do not always believe stories. Stories are lies.”
“Very well then. Here’s is my second question then, if this is still my second question–“
“What would you tell me, if you wanted me to fix this whole mess: the moot in danger, the Winter King, armies massing, all of it.”
“Clever.” Her face shifted as she smiled. “Perhaps we were too hasty. You might have provided more diversion than irritation. Nonetheless, what is done is done. I would tell you simply these three things: look to the oracles, for the oracles have been poisoned. Then, look to the north, and seek the Seeress of the Great Grey Mountain, for she knows more than I can see at such distances. My sight over such vast spans is murky and reduced in clarity. Third, it is not the moot, nor the Winter King, nor any other petty things you should be concerned about. If I wanted you to fix this whole mess, as you put it, I would advise you this: listen and listen close: A lost thing that was thought shattered and destroyed has been unearthed. Though it is only fragmentary, it is of an elder age and is powerful beyond the dreams of mortals, and beyond the notions even of most gods. This broken potency is not yet in the hands of the Winter King, but he will have it soon enough if he is not prevented. If the shattered power were to fall into his grasp? Would it be for the good or the ill? I cannot say, not with certainty, but with that power, he would have it in his craft to change the world to his liking. It would go badly for those who would not love his mastery over all things. So, find the prince Athairdrost. He has what you must take and keep safe, if you wish to ‘fix this whole mess’, as you say.”
“Athairdross… Athairdross…” she frowned. “That was the name of that phantom in the maze, the boy with the great sword that he could not lift.”
“Of that, we can say nothing unless you phrase it as a question.”
“No. It’s not a question. I have a question left though.” Ideas and thoughts raced in her skull, skittering around and leaving sparking trails of words. One more question.