He heard them speak now, heard them call to him. Their voices lifted above those of the smaller forms accompanying them, speaking his name over and over again. Bremen, Bremen. Foremost was Galaphile, and his voice was strongest. Bremen, Bremen. The old man wanted desperately to flee, would have given anything to be able to do so. His courage failed and his resolve turned into water. These apparitions were coming for him, and he could already feel the touch of their ghostly hands on his body. Madness buzzed inside his head, threatening to overwhelm him. On they came, huge forms wending thier way through the darkness, faceless apparitions, ghosts out of time and history. He found he could not stop himself from shaking, could not make himself think. He wanted to shriek his despair.
Then they were before him, Galaphile first, and Bremen lowered his head into the crook of his arm helplessly.
-Hold forth the sword-
He did so without question, thrusting it before him as he would a talisman. Galaphile's hand reached out, and his fingers brushed the Eilt Druin. Instantly, the emblem flared with white light. Galaphile turned away, and another Druid approached, touched the emblem, and departed. So it went, as one by one the spirits paraded before the old man and touched the sword he held, their fingers brushing the image of the Eilt Druin before they passed on. Over and over again the emblem flared brightly in response. From within the shelter of his raised arm, Bremen watched it happen. it might have been a blessing that they bestowed, an approval that they gave. But the old man knew that it was something more, something darker and harsher. There was a transference being wrought upon the sword by the touch of the dead. He could feel it happening. He could sense it taking hold.
It was what he had come for. It could not be mistaken for anything else. It was what he had been seeking. Yet even now, at the moment of its happening, he could not decipher its meaning.
So he knelt there at the edge of the Hadeshorn in the gloom and the spray, dismayed and confused, listening to the sounds of the dead, a witness to their passing, and wondered at what was taking place. At last the Druids had all come before him, touched the Eilt Druin, and gone on. At last he was alone, hunched down in the night. The sounds of the spirit voices faded, and in the ensuing silence he could hear the rasp of his own labored breathing. Sweat drenched his body and glistened on his face. His arm was cramped from holding forth the sword, yet he could not make himself withdraw it. He waited, knowing there was more, that it was not yet finished.
His name, spoken by a voice he now knew. he lifted his head cautiously. The Druid shades were gone. The column of water was gone. All that remained was the lake and the blackness of the night and, directly before him, the shade of Galaphile. It waited on him patiently as he rose and drew the sword against his body as if to find strength there. There were tears on his face, and he did not know how they had gotten there. Were they his own? He tried to speak and could not.
The shade spoke instead.
-Heed me. The sword has been given its power. Carry it now to the one who will wield it. Find him west. You will know. It belongs now to him-
Bremen's voice groped for words that would not come. The spirit's arm lifted to him.
The old man's mind cleared, and his words were harsh and filled with awe. "What have you done?"
-Given what part of us we can. Our lives have passed away. Our teachings have been lost. Our magic has dissipated in the wane of time. Only our truth remains, all that belonged to us in our lives, in our teachings, in our magic, stark and hard-edged and killing strong-
Truth? Bremen stared uncomprehending. Where did the sword's power lie in this? What form of magic came from truth? All those Druids passing before him, touching the blade, making it flare so brightly---for this?
The shade of Galaphile poined once more, a gesture so compelling that Bremen's queries died in his throat and his attention was immediately commanded. The dark figure before him swept away all but its own presence as its arm lifted, and the silence surrounded it was complete.
-Listen, Bremen, last of Paranor, and I will tell you what you would know. Listen-
And Bremen, captured heart and soul by the power of the shade's words, did so.
When it was finished and the shade of Galaphile was gone, when the waters of the Hadeshorn had become still and flat once more and the dawn was creeping silver and gold out of the east, the old man walked to the rim of the Valley of Shale and slept for a time amid the littered black rock. The sun rose and the day brightened, but the Druid did not wake. He slept a deep, dream-filled sleep, and the voices of the dead whispered to him in words he could not comprehend. He woke at sunset, haunted by the dreams, by his inability to decipher their meaning and his fear that they hid from him secrets that he must reveal if the Races were to survive. He sat amid the heat and shadows in the darkening twilight, pulled out the remainder of his bread from his pack, and ate half of it in silence, staring out at the mountains, at the high, strange formations of the Dragon's Teeth where the clouds scraped against the jagged tips on their way east tothe plains. He drank from the aleskin, now almost empty, and thought on what he had learned.
Of the secret of the sword.
Of the nature of its magic.