The warm smell of baking food began to seep through the cottage, adding an additional layer of homeliness to the cosy interior. Hammond leaned forward in his chair to throw another log on the fire. Geodhun quickly hopped over to Taylor's other knee, away from the increasing heat of the flames. Itaea rested her head on her outstretched front paws and stared at the leaping and sparking fire for several minutes. Taylor began to wonder if she had heard her question. Or if anyone had heard her.
"What do you know of the Obsidian Realm" Itaea asked suddenly, speaking into the silence. The white panther did not take her eyes away from the flames. "What have you discovered on your journey so far"
Taylor shrugged. "I don't know very much. I know that I saw Geodhun leap out of a painting on the wall of my dining room, and that I tried to catch him." Taylor looked down at the mountain dragon where he sat perched on her knee. "Sorry, Geodhun, I was probably a little rough with you. I thought you were a bug at first."
Geodhun stretched out one wing and one leg and "humpphed". Ulysses snorted with laughter and rolled over onto his back, holding his sides and kicking his legs in mirth.
"He came back a short time later and landed on my bedroom window," Taylor continued, ignoring the dark fairy. "Once he was inside my bedroom, he went through the mirror on my wardrobe and I followed him. I arrived in a field and spoke to a lizard called Sheldon. He was the one who told me I was in Torwood. After that, I found out that he meant Torwood Forest."
"Ah, Sheldon." Hammond seemed pleased at the mention of the lizard's name. "He is a very helpful creature when the mood takes him." He nodded, agreeing with his own comment.
Taylor looked pensively into the flames. "Then a storm came and I ran over to the woods to take shelter. And when the storm was over I met you." She smiled at Itaea. "Eos helped me get through the trees, and Geodhun helped me find my way through the forest. He also saved me from the bozdog."
Hammond leaned across to speak to her and Taylor could see that he was trembling under his coat of black and white fur. "You met a bozdog" he asked urgently.
"Yes. Geodhun and I stopped for a drink at a stream and the bozdog came through the bushes looking for water. I'm glad Geodhun was with me." Taylor shivered at the memory. "I probably would have screamed and ran and that would have been the very worst thing to do."
"So." Itaea pulled one large paw towards herself and examined the pale pink pads of her underfoot. "You have met some of the creatures of the Obsidian Realm and you have found your way here." She placed her paw back down on the floor and pushed herself to her feet. "And what have you learned of the Fabula"
Ulysses abruptly opened his iridescent blue wings and flew down from his position on Eos's head. Eos snorted and tossed his mane. Ulysses landed on the arm of the chair opposite Taylor and fixed his bright eyes on her. She quickly looked away. The dark fairy made her feel uncomfortable with his hard stares and unreadable expressions.
"I have heard of the Fabula but I do not know what it is or anything about it. I heard its cries in the forest." Taylor could still hear that haunting, eerie sound in her mind.
Geodhun and Itaea exchanged glances. "You tell her," said Itaea.
Geodhun shifted his position on Taylor's knee and hopped around until he was facing her. His green eyes glowed and she could see the reflection of a tiny fire in each of his irises. The room settled into a hushed silence, and even the voices of the goblins and beaver out in the kitchen quietened. "The Obsidian Realm was once a beautiful and peaceful sanctuary. Everyone lived in harmony and we were safe and happy." Geodhun's eyes gleamed as he told his story. "We thought that was the way it would always be."
Eos snorted again. He tossed his head angrily, accompanied by a firm stamp of his foot. "Don't be foolish, Geodhun," he said. "The Obsidian Realm was not always harmonious. You are growing old and forgetful."
Geodhun huffed, shooting out a stream of flames in the general direction of the unicorn. Taylor felt the prickle of his talons through the fabric of her dress as he pushed indignantly down on her knee. "I may be old, but I do not consider age to be a fault," he said stiffly. "Younger folk would do well to remember their manners, Eos. Would have done well to remember their manners."
Eos pawed irritably at the floor. He raised his wings, the rosy tips almost touching the rafters, then allowed them to fall back down in an incensed shuffle of feathers. He turned his luminous eyes on Taylor. "Many years ago the Obsidian Realm was governed by a tyrant, Yawan. During the time of Yawan's rule, the Realm was not a peaceful nor beautiful place. It did not become those things until after he was banished from our lands."
"Yawan did not rule for long, especially when one measures his rule against centuries of existence. When you have lived through times such as I have, a ruler of Yawan's ilk hardly figures in the scheme of things. He is of little consequence." Geodhun's tone was abrupt.
"How can you say he is of little consequence" Eos spluttered. "For those of us who lost loved ones, Yawan's rule was important. We also know that Yawan set an entire chain of events in motion. At least, those of us whose memories are not failing are able to remember this significant moment in the Realm's history." Eos gave Geodhun a steely look.
Hammond stood up from his chair, his hands raised pleadingly. "Please, please, let's not bicker." He looked sympathetically at Eos. "We know of your loss, Eos, and it will never be forgotten. The unicorns lost many of their number during the great change. I am sure that Geodhun did not mean to offend by his comment."
Eos scoffed. "Geodhun knows full well the meaning of every action that he takes and of every word that he speaks. Geodhun always means to offend. It is the only way he knows."
"Enough." Itaea rose abruptly from the floor to stand at her full height and all eyes turned to her. "Enough of this quarrelling. Finish the story, Geodhun."
"Can we interrupt with some refreshments Food is always guaranteed to make everything better." Everett and the perpetually beaming Lyric stepped in front of the group, holding heaped plates of buttered scones and cookies in their hands, while Waskel waited behind the pair with a tray of glasses and a pitcher of water. "A buffet Do you think it is the right time for a buffet I think it is the perfect time for a buffet." Everett's voice was placating and cheerful.
Itaea sighed. "Alright." She turned to the mountain dragon. "Geodhun, can I have a word with you, please In private." She motioned her head towards the room that Taylor had slept in. Geodhun launched himself sullenly off Taylor's knee and flew across to the door without saying a word. Taylor watched as Itaea pushed the door open with her noble head and the two disappeared inside.