“I speak as one who weaves the tapestry of words,” the Questor’s wife said, standing and leaning on her cane. “I recognise their right to their own domain.”

“I speak as a singer of the symphony, and I recognise their right to their own domain,” Andrei said, stepping forth from the corner where the musicians had been silent.  “Two of the makers speak.  Is there another?”

Peredur roused himself from the pillows upon which he had been lounging near the library.  He stood.  “I speak as an ambassador to bones, a carrier of the breath of wood and fire, and I recognise their right to their own domain. I shall challenge any who speak otherwise.  Is there one?”

I looked around carefully, seeing this as that lovely moment wherein someone could jump in and say something really dramatic.  Everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing.

The Seven King shifted. “Is there any here who would speak otherwise?” she asked. “Or was the guest list slanted to those who had your interests in mind?”

“We know the rules,” Nen said.  “We informed those who had reason and madness both,” he said.

Rayya nodded. “And yourself, our King. You could speak against it.”

“We suggest you jest. This is quite a company you have assembled, and we have no reason to make anything but alliance.  We think there is purpose here.  Do you seek a realm to hide your charge from the forces that array against him?” she somehow pointed the conversation to me.

I could have used a moment to hide from the weight of everyone’s gaze, but I just kind of froze and tried not to catch anyone’s attention in particular.  Ed gave me a look of sympathy.

“Let’s talk about that, shall we?” the Questor’s Wife spoke up.

“No,” the Seven King said, simply.  “There is a question pending.”

“No, your Majesty,” Nen said.  “Our charge is weft to our warp, if the weave is so aligned.”

The words had heft to them, as if drawing some kind of thread together and strengthening the library.  That’s what it made me think of; a collection of books.  Archive? Catalogue? I’d have to see if the Spriggan sibs had a name for it.

“Indeed,” the King said.  “And does he know of all your plans?”

“We are what we are, your Majesty,” Rayya said.

“Clever beings, incapable of untruth, and incapable of directness all at once,” Andrei said.  “They could speak simply and still not say that which is at hand.  As yourself, your Majesty.”

“We grant the point.  We grant the boon.  We grant the audience should the wife of the Questor so request it.”  She sighed.  “Is this all we are required?”

I had a temptation to ask for a pony, but I was afraid I might get it.

She let it hang there.

There was a knock at the door. Of course there was.

Everyone looked at me.  Oh yeah, it was my place.

I opened the door.

There was no one there.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” I heard the Questor’s wife sing softly.  I felt the magic pull in different directions like the tugging of a small child on one’s jacket, and the soft whistle one makes to grab attention without grabbing everyone’s attention.

“None of this,” the Seven King said.

“Wait,” said the Questor.

There was a murmur, that strange noise that is a bunch of words half-said.  “Why?” asked the King, whirling on him.

“There is a Question here.”  The Questor moved closer to the door, and I moved away to let him hold it open.  One of those graceless shuffles that most places skipped over, but we kind of bumped around and made it happen.

He closed his eyes.  “I hear you.  You will not find your answer here.  You are drawn by the power, not by the purpose.  The way you seek is closed, but only until the one who called you opens it for you.  They cannot hear you until you speak in the way you once did, whispers in the dark, breath upon cheek, and you sing your shared story.”

I had heard of the Questor’s power before, spoken in brief on message boards for weird conspiracy theorists.  I always wondered how the Oracles sounded, and now I knew.  He never raised his voice.  He spoke simply.  He spoke something that wasn’t Truth, but something I knew I would remember if it was spoken to me.  It was personal, like I was overhearing someone else’s secrets, and yet nothing was said that really pertained to me. I felt more like I’d been eavesdropping accidentally on a conversation that wasn’t meant to be overheard.

He spoke again after a moment. “Drink in the sunlight for it will strengthen you for the journey.  The makers meant no harm; they only sought to find what had stumbled in to our gathering.  Yes, there are forces here,” he looked at me, “who would use you as an excuse to enter.  We are being watched, but I grant you egress.”

He lifted his arm and waved in a motion that was not magical, but at the same time, I felt the ease of some kind of pressure.  He was quiet again for a moment, and then I felt his gaze go somewhere else.

“And you who watch us, know we see you too,” he said to the air outside.  “Do not seek to cast your shadow here.  We do not need the light to challenge you.  Lurk at your own peril.”

He turned and shut the door.

“Muak-Lal watches.”  There was a number of voices suddenly as everyone spoke at once, some aggravated, some scared, some confused.

“The Shadow King,” I named him to Ed and Zach, who had moved closer. “I didn’t know he had any other actual name until the sibs told me.”

“Wonder if he was invited,” Zach made it more of a statement than a question.

“Well, I wouldn’t have, but they said they needed naysayers.  I didn’t think his world collided with the sibs, though. Learn something new every day.”

“Yes,” Zach said, and I wondered what he’d meant by it.