The Old Dog's Tricks is the twenty-sixth chapter in Gunnerkrigg Court. It starts .
The chapter begins with Annie and Eglamore at the Gillitie Wood. Eglamore comments that the symbol Annie made with her blinker stone looks wonky, and Annie testily responds that she's still getting the hang of it. They are greeted by Jolly Elfsberry, an elf who claims that Coyote sent him to greet Annie. Eglamore doesn't trust him and tries to prevent Annie from going with him, but Jolly reveals himself to be Coyote secretly and Annie plays along, leaving with him.
Annie asks Coyote why he disguised himself, and Coyote responds that it was a joke he wanted to play on Eglamore. Annie then asks where Ysengrin is, since he was meant to escort her. Coyote takes her to the shore of a lake and tells her to be quiet. Ysengrin, standing on the shore, plucks a fish from the ocean and throws it to the sand. He steps out of his green cloak and then out of his tree body, revealing that his actual body is thin, weak and trembling from lack of strength.
Coyote points out to Annie that she is seeing the real Ysengrin, but Annie says that it was not a nice thing to do and that she shouldn't be seeing it. Coyote advises her to stand her ground and pushes her onto the shore. Ysengrin snarls at her and climbs back into his tree body and shouts at her, but before he can actually harm her, Coyote walks onto the shore, pretending that he did not know Annie was there. He mocks her sky symbol, tells Ysengrin to put his cloak back on and tells her that she can ride on his back. During the ride, Annie tells Coyote that she is upset with him, but Coyote will not let her talk about what she saw, instead telling her that she needs more practice with her blinker stone or she will not be a good medium. He tells her he will show her a new trick and they reach their destination.
At the foot of a tree, surrounded by flowers, is the body of a sleeping fox- the body that Reynardine discarded years ago. Coyote tells her that he preserved the body and that it waits for his return. He tells Annie that she should let Reynardine know that it is there. Coyote tells her that he has another reason for wanting her to see the fox and asks her to call her blinker stone to her and to use it to peer into the ether. Annie does so but is knocked to the ground. He tells her to only focus on herself and to expand slowly.
Annie is overwhelmed by the beauty of Ysengrin and Coyote as they appear. Coyote asks her to look at the sleeping body of Reynardine, but she sees it as being grey and lifeless. He agrees, saying that it is nothing more than a sleeping fox. He says that the real Reynardine is trapped in the Court, and that it must seem grey and lifeless there for someone like him... and someone like Annie.
Coyote asks why Annie came to see them. She responds that she just needed to get away from the court for awhile. Coyote asks her if the Court is wearing on her and if something happened to cause the cut on her cheek. Annie doesn't know what he's talking about, but Coyote says that whatever caused it, it was very powerful. Annie warns him not to try to trick her. Coyote is reminded of the trick he wanted to teach her and tells her to pick a flower. Annie says that she can't, but Coyote tells her that she can and she needs to exercise her mind, like any muscle. Annie picks the flower with her mind and it falls on her face. Coyote says it's a start, and that soon she will be able to move her own body, but that she is tired, so she needs to go home.
Ysengrin takes Annie back. She apologises for what she saw. He tells her not to apologise for something that wasn't her fault, and that when he saw Coyote, he knew Annie had been tricked. Coyote stops them and tells Ysengrin that he will take her back the rest of the way. Annie says goodbye to Ysengrin. She tells Coyote that she is still angry with him, but he tells her that she saw important things. She saw three versions of Ysengrin: the way he sees himself, the way others see him and the way he truly is. He wants her to keep in mind the real Ysengrin, but before she can ask which one that is, he tells her he will give her a gift as an apology. He pulls a tooth from his mouth and gives it to her, telling her that it is the sharpest blade she will ever find and to be careful with it, as it could cut the earth. He places a rock in his mouth where the tooth was and it replaces the tooth.
In the form of Jolly, Coyote takes her back to Eglamore, who asks her if she is alright, since her sky symbol vanished. Annie reassures him that she's perfectly fine. Jolly/Coyote wishes her farewell and they head back along the bridge. As they walk, Annie asks Eglamore when he starts teaching students to use a sword, and the chapter ends.
Notes and Trivia
- Tom's commentary for this chapter can be found here
- When disguising himself at the start and end of the chapter, Coyote seems to take the appearance of a tree elf.