The Swamp – Day One

I’d stocked up quite a bit on my last market trip. I’d even taken the portal to the Capital for a few odds and ends. I needed to stay put for a while. It could be a little while; it could be a long while.

We were due a double rainbow and I don’t like being elsewhere when they happen. The consequences are always unpredictable and all too often unpleasant.

Being at home doesn’t mean I lack for company though. For all the swamp seems inhospitable, it has quite a thriving community of interesting residents.

Today I was looking forward to lunch with Cernnunos. Another refugee from the north, he’d made his home further into the strange forest the swamp buffers from the rest of the world. I’ve always found its dim green light and close-grown trees a little oppressive, but he settled in like he was always meant to be there. The trees are passing fond of him and I’ve never seen him catch an antler on a branch, no matter how narrow the gaps between the trunks or how tangled the growth above.

Right on time, there was a familiar aural shimmer on my ward, and Cernunnos’s tall, broad form stepped through the soap-bubble-fine barrier. Other than his magnificent antlers, he looked very much a normal man. Until you got close enough to see the wild magic swirling in his eyes and across his skin.

A second, visual, shimmer, pulled my eyes up.

“Blast!”

Cernunnos blinked. I pointed behind him. “The double rainbow’s arrived.”

I joined him at the edge of my island and we watched the dual bridge form over the outer forest and move forward until it was worryingly close to my home.

The end of the damn thing came to a halt right above my house.

I groaned. “Not the pot of gold, please.”

It didn’t listen. From the hazy gap between the two rainbows, a small iron cauldron tumbled down, scattering gold coins and the occasional light-catching gem. I was going to be blunting my trowel on the damn things every time I tried to garden for weeks.

The cauldron hit the roof of my cottage, and went straight through.

‘Gift’ delivered, the rainbow faded. I stood and fumed.

Cernunnos regarded me with his head on one side. “Shall I fetch wood for roof repair?”

I sighed and came back to myself. “That would be lovely, thank you. I’m going inside to check the damage. I might yell a bit.”

He snorted and smiled. It was exactly what he’d done, after all, when the double rainbow had hit his home with a three-bushel barrel of what turned out to be flower seeds.

He now had a smart trade going with one of the best florists in the capital, thanks to another piece of portal work on my part but it had taken a while, and a lot of swearing, before his home had been habitable again.

I walked inside. The cauldron had hit the side of the table, collapsing one leg and scattering my perfectly set lunch all over the floor. It had then somehow managed to bounce itself onto the kettle hook by the side of the fire. For an inanimate object, it was looking far too smug for my liking.

All in all, the damage was less than I’d dreaded. Which made me fairly certain the surprises weren’t yet over.

Cernunnos crossed in again and came to the door. He scanned the room. “I’ve enough wood to fix the table. Where did the pot go?”

The cauldron’s handle squeaked as it swung on the kettle hook. My visitor’s eyes narrowed.

“Ah. Well I suppose this is about the safest place for it.”

I had to ask didn’t I. “For what?”

He nodded towards the fire. “That’s the Cauldron of Plenty. Whatever you put in, you get back in endless supply until you put something else in.”

Oh dear.

I walked outside. Space and air was good, and the roof needed fixing. I would focus on that, not on the object of power now resident in my kitchen.

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