“For this to work,” the Elder said, “I will need to cross us through the Vale. That means they could see us easier so you must be very careful. Crossing the Vale also means…well, you’ll see.”
The Elder raised his staff and chanted words similar to what Igdryll heard earlier at the council door. This time he did not lose consciousness but, instead, suddenly felt very ill. As the Elder’s chant reached a crescendo, Igdryll felt something wash over his body, like a cold breeze, and his senses dulled as if he had drunk too much cider. Darkness enveloped him for a moment and then he could see again, it was as if all of the world’s colors had been muted. He vomited.
“That sometimes happens, Igdryll. It’s nothing to worry about.”
“Why no warning?” Igdryll asked while wiping his mouth on his sleeve.
“Not everyone has that reaction. Listen, we are in the mortal sphere now. Things are different here. You probably noticed the colors are dull. Sound is heavier, uglier. Also, we can’t speak with other creatures so easily.”
“I don’t like it here.”
“Fear poisons this world. That is what you are feeling.”
“What a darkish place.”
The Elder walked through the field with Igdryll. They used the tufts of grass stalks as cover. A rabbit darted and all three of them were startled. They continued, making their way to the edge of the field. They were now less than twenty feet away from the two Tall Men and their moving house. The noise from the machine sounded like the growl from some beast and shook the ground.
The Elder held up his staff, it flashed and the house shuddered and stopped. A close silence fell over the valley. The two Tall Men could be heard talking back and forth. They walked around the machine, occasionally climbing up and down parts of it and scratching their heads while they conversed.
“Now, do you see those wheels, Igdryll, and the metal band that goes around them?”
“Okay, I will send the two Talls away and I need for you to smash those pieces apart. Got it?”
“Got it? That’s forging stupid talk. How my wooden hammer break up that metal craft?”
The Elder took Igdryll’s hammer from his belt and gently blew on it. The implement glowed softly. He handed it back to him.
“It’s heavyish now,” Igdrll said.
“It will work now.”
The Elder raised his staff again and chanted. Nothing seemed to happen but then in a far off corner of the work site, a loud whump reverberated through the air followed by a rising tendril of black smoke. The two men ducked, then turned towards the source of the explosion. They both ran off towards it.
Igdryll ran across the clearing. His hat fell off, he stooped to pick it up and continued running. He stopped at the base of the machine. ‘It’s farking huge,” he thought. He raised his hammer and brought it down on the track. A hollow thud traveled from the hammer, up his arm and into his skull.
“Fark,” he shouted, “it no working!”
Igdryll raised the hammer again and brought it down, more gingerly this time. The metal gave way slightly as if it were ice cracking. Encouraged, he struck again and the track shattered.
He continued, smashing more of the track, the guides and even several items that the Elder hadn’t pointed out. He was making good progress on the house’s scooper thing when he heard the Elder shouting. He turned to look. The Elder was waving frantically and pointing towards something in the distance. The bigger Tall Man was walking towards the machine.
“Shayt,” Igdryll said as he turned and ran back across the field. He slid to a stop next to the Elder and turned to look. The Tall Man was climbing onto the top of the house. He grabbed something and walked back towards the direction from where he came.
“That was close, Igdryll.”
“Should I go back?”
“Nay. That’s enough. They are crippled for now.”
“But what about sendin’ ’em to the Spirit?”
“Not today, Igdryll. We need to get back now.”
Igdryll thought that the Elder looked very tired. The two of them retreated into the underbrush and walked towards the river. As they approached the Vale, the Elder raised his staff and Igdryll passed out. He woke a moment later and he felt normal again. They were both back on the other side of the Vale again. Colors and smells returned to normal. The oppressive fear subsided.
“I need to sit for a moment,” the Elder said. He sat down on a smooth stone near the river and closed his eyes.
“You okay, Oldish?”
The Elder breathed deeply for several moments before opening his eyes again. He looked at Idgryll and smiled.
“I’m okay, Igg. We aren’t what we once were.”
“What you mean?”
“Our magic grows tired which means I grow tired.”
Igdryll sat down next to the Elder. The two of them gazed out at the river saying nothing for several minutes.
“Are you dying, Elder?” Igdryll asked.
The Elder turned to Idgryll. “Let’s go, Igg.”
The Elder stood up and walked to the river bank. Igdryll followed.
“Remember, relax,” the Elder said.
The two of them floated back across the river. Igdryll felt much more comfortable now as he what to expect. They both landed on the far side safely and walked into the woods together.
“Why you no answer?” Igdryll asked.
“I think you know the answer, Igdryll.”
“We’re all dying, aren’t we?”
The Elder didn’t answer and the two of them walked back to the village in silence.