Cartographies and Colonies
Elionwy of the Chalice
wandering sorceress, once love of Rilian Ard Righ
Elionwy was a sorceress who traveled the Green Isle, and even to lay eyes on her in the distance was considered good fortune. She was passing fair, a grey elven lady in mantle of white samite, with hair the color and sheen of mithril, all bound up with living flowers. Always she rode in the company of a stern knight, his shield like a great dragon’s scale polished to mirror brightness. Elionwy of the Chalice and the Knight of the Mirrorshield were the guardians of a great treasure, a chalice that could cure all evils. One sip, and the drinker was free of poison, wound, illness, or curse. But in order to take the chalice from her, one must first face the Knight of the Mirrorshield, and then the lady’s test. For the Mirrorshield too was an object of great power, and it reflected the true form of things. Many an adventurer turned back in shame at the sight of himself, his weakness and deformities of spirit now worn on his face. Those few adventurers who faced and bested the knight were then invited to sup with the lady in her pavilion. Her test was this, that one must desire the chalice above all other things. If it were one’s heart’s true desire, gladly would she hand it over. But always it came to pass that having seen the lady, and sitting in her presence, the adventurer would desire not the chalice but the lady above all things.
So it came to pass that Ser Drustan, a favorite knight of Rilian’s entourage, was cursed in battle with the unseelie court. He waned, and there was nothing Rilian’s druids or priests could do to restore him to health. Rilian went in search of Elionwy and the chalice she guarded. He came upon them at midsummer, in the high fields of Runfeld. Facing the Mirrorshield, he saw himself weeping. Strange to behold such grief upon his own features, but he held steady. In three passes, he knocked the knight from his mount, and in three blows he drove him to the turf. The knight yielded, and so Rilian went, wiping blood and sweat from his face, to Elionwy’s pavilion. Great repast was there, honey in the comb, bowls of currants and grapes, bread still steaming, though no oven was there. The lady gave him feywine, and she asked him why he had come. He answered without hesitation, “Why, to see you, lady. Fain I would give up my crown for this hour in your company.” But then his heart fell in his breast, and he knew he had betrayed his purpose and his dear knight. The chalice had passed from him.
Then he wept, knowing Ser Drustan would die. The lady drew his head to her breast and wiped his tears with her sleeves. “You need not give up your crown for my company,” said she. So Rilian had his heart’s desire, and they spent all that evening in each others company. He woke as the moon was high, and the lady and knight yet sleeping. Thinking he might yet find the chalice among her things, Rilian crept to the knight and took shield from its place at his feet. Slowly he turned the shield, looking at all in the pavilion as it truly was. The tent was no more than woven shadows, the carpets a bed of flowers. The table and its settings were real enough, but none shone with holy light. But strange, a great silver tail curled where, looking away from shield, he saw none. And turning the shield at last to the lady, he saw no lady at all, but a silver wyrm, head tucked under its wing and tail winding all round the pavilion. In terror he dropped the Mirrorshield and cried out, waking lady and knight. Then the lady was sore angry, knowing why he had taken the shield, and also that he had seen her. She grew in stature before his eyes, a drake in truth. When she roared, all the air was filled with frost, and Rilian fled. So he failed in his quest.
Ser Drustan grew frail of body and dark of spirit, and still none could aid him. Galahad, youngest of the knights, went in search of Elionwy again, thinking that though Rilian had failed, still he might beg her mercy. Galahad found them close, in Chancery Wood, only a day’s ride from Elfhame city. He faced the Mirrorshield, and he saw himself unchanged. He faced the knight, and though he took lance to his shoulder, he drew them together to the ground and there grappled him. Having bested the knight, he went to the lady. “Why have you come?” she asked him. “To win the chalice, for without Ser Drustan, Rilian’s best loved knight and once-highest of our order will surely die.” He spoke the truth, desiring that Drustan be saved above all things, though the lady stood before him and his own lifeblood spilled from his shoulder. The lady held out her hand, and lo, in it was a chalice with a stem of ivory and a goblet of silver. She bade him drink, and at a taste of the wine within, Galahad’s wounds closed. She pressed chalice into his hand and said, “So I am free. And I thank you, for I have other things I would protect.” Before he could wonder of her meaning, Galahad heard a babe cry. Then the lady brought forth the babe, letting Galahad amuse him, and so they passed a merry dinner. The babe had scales on his cheeks and shoulders, and his teeth were wicked sharp, but his eyes were the exact gold of Rilian’s.
When Galahad returned with the chalice, he told Rilian what he had seen. And so even on the same day that Ser Drustan was miraculously healed, the Ard Righ learned he had a son. Now, he already had a son by his wife, Gywnhefar, but ever since his night with the lady, he could not forget her. And so before even he saw Ser Drustan rise, he rode in mad haste to Chancery Wood. But the lady was gone; there was no sign she or her pavilion had been there. Now began days of high revelry at the court, and people came from all over the Green Isle to be healed by Galahad’s Chalice, as it came to be called. But Rilian was clouded of spirit and scarce attended his men, his wife, or his son. Within the month, he commanded his knights ride out with him, once more in search of Elionwy. He found her in the high fields of Runfeld, in midwinter, still wearing the form of an elvish woman and with the Knight of the Mirrorshield still at her side. He demanded to see the child, and at last, she relented, telling him that indeed the boy was his. Rilian begged to bring the child to Elfhame and make him his heir. He could not bring Elionwy, for already his strife with Gwynhefar was grievous. But let him take the child, he said, and make him heir, and he promised he would cede the throne to the boy as soon as he came of age. The lady agreed but in part, saying that the boy was but half Rilian’s, and he could have him only half the year. From spring to fall he could go with Rilian, but at the Samhain fires, she would come for him, and keep him all the winter. Rilian agreed, and he set out with the boy in his arms, to the rejoicing of his men.
The Unseelie Court knew of the child, and while he was in his mother’s care, there was naught they could do to harm him. But now the child was parted from his dragon kindred, and Rilian was too drunk with joy to be wary of them. One knight a thief of the dark court passed, cloaked in shadow, among Rilian’s men, stopping where the boy slept swaddled in Rilian’s cape. He took the child, and left in his place a changeling, a golem enchanted to have identical form. And he stole away with the boy, taking him deep into the heart of the mountains.
Rilian woke and noted nothing that had passed. Back at Elfhame, many commented how odd it was how little the boy laughed or cried, but he was half dragon, after all. And they noted how odd it was that he did not seem to grow, but dragons matured even more slowly than elves did, after all. It was not until the day of the Samhain bonfires, when Elionwy came to retrieve her son that at last this treachery was uncovered. In the face of the Mirrorshield all saw not a boy, but a tangle of bones and obsidian marked with runes. Elionwy was stricken with grief and rage. How could Rilian have lost his own son, she demanded, and not even noticed it. Then she declared that all friendliness between the silver dragons and the Seelie Court was ended, and that Rilian himself would ride the high passes of Runfeld at peril. And so she and the knight departed. Both dragons and Seelie Court declared war on the underhill, and they captured and exiled many drow, sending them on ships geased to sail south without turning, to the very ends of the world. But they never found the boy, nor what had become of him.