The Low Road
Chapter 15 Part 1
Hate knows no Borders
Skuld faced her officers in the great hall of her palace, she could feel their fear at what had just transpired, and their anger towards her at this strange and unexpected turn of events. She knew she had to turn the situation into an advantage. Like her officers, she feared what Balor might do to her once he was told the news. Balor and his plan, The Prophesy, Aiden Bane, all of it only enraged her now. 'I will do things my own way for once.' She thought. 'I will crush Aiden Bane's very heart and make him choke on his own despair! And for Lord Balor, I will give him as a gift, these islands, the last bastion of the strongest of the Seelie Fae. But the head of the mortal, and the wilted, cold body of his Faerie Princess, I shall keep for myself.'
Veirwaer, King of the Trolls of Cul Mor, was in the forefront of the gathering and his voice pulled her out of her own dark thoughts. "What is tae be done now Skuld? We have followed you, and your scheme has cost Lord Balor the use of the Pixies! When he learns of this he will punish not only you, but all of us who follow you as well."
"I will take the responsibility for my actions alone!" Skuld stated coldly. "Balor is busy on the continent and so this news can wait. There is no need to report it yet. Besides, things are not all going his way there, there are still strong pockets of resistance to be dealt with. He has not been completely honest in his reports on the progress of his plans. The Fae war is not going all his way and I grow tired of toying with the Seelie rabble here."
"What do you intend Skuld?" A Tall Elf with long white hair and a single shock of red hair flowing past his right shoulder asked.
"I intend to simply give you your reward for loyal service much earlier then planned Lord Upraid."
"Bane's Fiefdom? I am a patient Elf my Lady, besides, have you not already done enough damage to Lord Balor's designs with this morning's unpleasantness?" The Elf Lord asked with a grin. "A third of your army is fighting on the continent, and part of your available forces are tied up in occupational duties in southern Cymru. How do you intend to fight the Seelie of Britain with just the forces you have amassed here?"
Skuld actually laughed before answering. "Now is the perfect time for us to strike and finish the little Seelie Courts on these islands."
"This goes against Balor's Plan Skuld! You and your sisters were only tae fight them from the shadows, weakening them through the creation of mortal conflict within this nation." Veirwaer cried out in response.
"Balor has discounted the Prophesy, yet Lord Bane and the Seelie of Caledonia place a great hope in it. Bane made a mistake in showing me that faith. In this I see a flaw in Balor's plan and we will correct it. The Caledonian Seelie may find another way to gain new strength, and that could cause us problems, better to strike now while they are weak and unorganized." Skuld replied. "They have lost their greatest warrior! Bane thinks that he has hurt us by depriving us of the Pixies, but this game is still only in it's opening moves and I am already thinking three moves ahead."
"Surely Lord Bane discussed his plans with King Kalen." Upraid said.
"I am sure that he has." Skuld stated.
"And the other Seelie courts?" Veirwaer asked.
"The Seelie of Albion are still distrustful of Kalen's folk after the wars they fought against each other in the past, their lords will bicker and debate, all in the name of protecting their own Realm first and by the time they have come to a decision, it will be... too... late. The Seelie of Cymru hide in their hills and mountains and are hard pressed by my forces in the south of their realm. And the Seelie Courts of Hibernia are locked in a war amongst themselves. Caledonia is alone."
"Still, without Pixie support our...." Veirwaer began but Skuld cut him off.
"The Pixies are of little concern here Veirwaer, Our forces are more then enough to handle the Caledonian rabble. Aiden Bane's scheme has only deprived us of this little island of Ellan Vannin, which was useful as a staging point, it is an inconvenience surely, but there are other places. All Bane has accomplished this day has been just a minor annoyance. Our alliance with the Pixies was more for the security of keeping them out of the war then anything else, so he changed nothing. Whenever the Pixies answered our call for aid, they sent just a few regiments, only once did they send one Legion to help us, a pittance of what they could have provided! The Pixies were useful to us, but unreliable. It is worth the loss of this island, and the Pixies to have Lord Bane removed from the game board." Skuld paused and sighed. "We will let them stay in their hidden halls, eventually we will deal with them too."
"Bane changed nothing you say?" Duke Eyvind of the Dwarves asked. "But what if he sways them to the Seelie side? He is now living among them."
"At the worst, that will be long years from now! The Pixies do not do well with the high ideals of the Seelie. By the time Bane might imprint such teachings to their future generations, it will be too late, they will be alone."
"Then your intentions My Lady?" A cloak enshrouded Fairie asked, hovering above the other lords.
"We shall remove ourselves to the island of Toraigh. I do not wish to strike too soon, our enemies will be expecting a response from me in answer to today's business. Yet we will let them wonder and worry for a little while before we strike."
"Toraigh? Balor's island fastness?" Eyvind asked in fear.
"Yes, it keeps us close to where we shall strike." Skuld responded. "It is safe enough Eyvind. Lord Balor abandoned the island many ages ago and no Fae live there now, except, for a small force I placed there myself some years ago to watch over and maintain it's ancient halls."
"Why do we not just use The Road and go back tae Cul Mor my Lady and stage our attack frae there?" Veirwaer asked.
Skuld's eyes flashed as she turned back to the great Troll. "Fool! The Low Road is the bloodstream of this world. Any large force of Fae using The Road would be noticed by all, friend and foe alike, just as the struggles of a fly trapped in a web let the spider know her dinner has been caught, or how a rock thrown into a still pool sends forth ripples that find their way to all of the surrounding shore. We would only alert our foes as to our target, and, of course one can only enter or exit the Road at certain points which can be closed magically if the spell caster is close enough to the portal. While the magic can be broken, I would rather not deal with the delays this would cause."
"Then you intend to use your fleet to transport the army." Upraid said with a slight smile.
"I have already summoned the fleet." Skuld replied. "And I shall ask my Merfolk who control these waters to provide a wind and ensure we are not seen by prying eyes."
"And the plan?" Hespa asked.
"Ah Hespa, you can always be counted upon to ask just the right question at the appropriate time. We shall attack Bane's Fief first, since his people alone make up over a third of the Caledonian forces! I shall regain Bane's sister and, with Kalen's daughter in keeping there, we shall take and kill her. You, my dear Hespa, shall choose five of your best assassins and take them with you to ensure her young mortal lover dies. He will be guarded so you must take the greatest of care not be discovered. Watch and wait for an opportunity and then strike. The Prophesy ends with their deaths."
Hespa nodded her pale shrouded head. "It shall be as you command my Lady."
A great murmur arose among the assembled officers which soon changed to a devilish laughter.
"The scheme is a good one. Finally, we go to WAR!" Duke Eyvind cried out. "No more little raids. It's BLOOD AND GLORY!"
In the early hours of the morning, Skuld's Army boarded their longships, great serpent prows with red jeweled eyes gleaming with their own inner light set sail from Peel Harbour, the local fishermen and the townspeople fleeing inland at the sight of the Ghostly host and the shadow ships in the bay. Skuld's own vessel however stood out from the rest, a great trireme in the ancient Greek style, it sailed at the center of the fleet, rowed by a crew of two hundred and thirty Minotaurs it was a sight to behold. As they sailed eastward, a great fog rose from the sea and a wind from the south began to blow. Merfolk rose their heads from the water and greeted the ships and cheered. Beyond the fleet in all directions a great storm arose with waves that wrecked many a mortal's fishing boat, and with contrary winds that kept birds from flying anywhere near the fleet. Soon the ships were sailing northwestward toward the northern shores of Ireland.