I lean over abruptly as we are traveling.
“Sir Cawdry. I think I did a poor job of articulating things when we discussed your plan earlier. Er, regarding the possibility of Ascension. It is not that I think your plan is poor or unworthy in some fashion. To the contrary, I think it a good idea.”
I smile wryly, "Since you ‘know nothing of magic,’ I figured I should explain more clearly.
“I believe that my Ascending will accomplish what you desire, namely that those around me will be able to observe the state of the souls around them. However, this will be caused by the very fact of my ascending in their presence … as a sort of ‘spillover’ effect of the Light. That is to say, I will not be casting a spell or anything along those lines to cause this effect.
“What I will be doing, in effect, is, uh, opening up a conduit to the Light. In doing so, my … mind/soul … will pass from our world to the realm of spirit. As you may recall from the situation with Sir Cael and the Princess Hesperia, it can be difficult to return from the realm of Light to the mortal world.
“One of the things that helps keep me tied to the mortal realm is the task that I am undertaking with the power of the Light. In the case of Princess Hesperia, I was channeling the Light through myself and attempting to use this power to dispel magic of a sort that was far more potent that I could ever hope to dispel on my own. Focusing on working this magic back in the mortal realm helps keep my spirit tied there.”
I take a breath.
“Thus, when I said (something along the lines of) ‘there is no purpose in channeling the Power of the Ascension’, it was not because your purpose was unworthy, but because the purpose of the Ascension is the Power, not what I’m doing with it.
“Er, does that make sense? I’m not sure if I’m explaining it any better this time…”
Caudraí has the good graces to look abashed. “Apologies for my error,” and then the sly smile, “there are so very many things I do not understand.”
He stares at the passing swamp for a time. “Perhaps you could work to bless the assemblage with insight? Or convey on the assemblage a ward that could keep from them evil spirits?”
“Yeah, I also may have been too hasty when I used the term ‘pretext’ before. I may want to have something in mind for that time, though it may also make sense to play it by ear, to some extent. That is, if it appears there are more villains in the group than we anticipate, I can try to construct some type of ward (or some such). I have a few different options available. If nothing else, a blessing is never a bad thing.”
I consider for a moment before continuing.
“On an entirely different manner, I was wondering if you had any thoughts on … er, I guess I should still call her Lady Bizarre. I spent years trying to gather what information I could on her and the Fae, believing that she was our implacable enemy. This about-face seems curious.”
Caudraí shakes his head. “She seems to have chosen to be my fairy godmother. She is an ancient mother goddess, and I believe that Faery is a transition place for such beings. She is the wife I think of the All-Father, and other fragments of divinity. I think she once had many worshippers and now has few. To be fair, she let the pirates die in a way by their own wickedness, and saved the Marchioness in more ways than one….”
“Fury had told me that she was at one time greater than he was … and that she was the ‘source’ of his wife. That some would say that she, like many of ‘Their Ilk’ had stayed too long. He had also said something like ‘in the Light we are all one,’ and that he was not Odin, though both led the Wild Hunt and that Saint Tarran was but a facet of him.”
“At times I feel like I understand what is going on, while at others …”
I sigh again.
“As to the pirates and the Marchioness … Why would Lady Bizarre help her? Lady Bizarre had just tried to kill all of us, including the Marchioness, in her wrath. I do not (seriously) doubt that she is on (something akin to) our side, now, but back then? Did she change her mind between the time we left her palace and the Marchioness falling into the sea? I guess it is possible. She had no particular reason to wish harm on the Marchioness … I suppose I had always assumed the enchantment was meant to harm you and me in some manner … probably incidentally as part of some greater action that would harm the kingdom … Ah well. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been mistaken about things.”
Caudraí has that expression he reserves for those he considers foolish as he says, “Do you think a being such as that if it was attempting to kill us would have failed? I believe she is capricious, yes, and self-interested, yes. But a failure at basic intents?”
He grins, "That it was meant to harm us was clear, for what it was. Through an accident, I revealed her awfulness and destroyed the illusion she had built. But for creatures such as this, as with the great Powers of the earthly world, each action serves multiple purposes. That is why they are to be feared: for their slyness, not their power.
“I admit to being just as surprised as any by the Marchioness’ reorientation….” Caudraí’s eyes are full of light as he turns to Arthur, “Let us consider it your first saving of a soul, eh, Master Miller?”
“At first I had thought that … well, at first, I was too busy running for my life to think about anything. After that, though, I figured she was just a powerful faerie, so I was not too surprised we escaped. Then, when I learned she was a diminished goddess, I just assumed VERY diminished. Now? I’m not sure. We were very close to not making it out of the harbor. Where would her plans be then? And how could she know the Marchioness would fall overboard? Did her magic cause that as well? Of course, I suppose if she is capricious, maybe she didn’t care either way. She just took the situation as it arose and bent it to her own purposes.”
I pull a ring out of my pocket and twist it idly.
“I’d dearly like to look in on the Marchioness and see that she is okay. That is, if it weren’t clearly such an inappropriate thing to do. Eh, it’s not as if I can do anything to help from here, anyway. It’s just … with the enchantment, bloody Marion, and the traitors in her midst … I can’t help but worry, as stupid and pointless as that is.”
Cawdry says with great tenderness, “My friend, I pray I find such concerns and love for my new wife as you have found for this newly-Saved woman,”
I continue to stare at the ring for a few moments before replying, “You are a good friend, Sir Cawdry. I am glad to have met you, and, even though it is not the best circumstances, I am happy to be travelling together once again.”
I then give a lopsided smile, “And I will, of course, do my best to see that nothing bad happens to you, so that you are able to return to your wife when all of this is over. After all, I would never leave a lady in distress …”