Kalamite, Keefer-Papa of the Runman Order
Aiya, aiya, everything calamity. First with the return of the cunning Shore woman – aiy and Mallen, the treacherous jert, could expect retribution. He would not be living much longer. But the woman’s return with the arrogant holde did, in its way, condemn the Lubanthan. But, Stup be drowned, there were two of them! Two Lubanthan crawlers around the Shore woman. And worse, so Ffika reported of common jaw, this other Lubanthan, the alive Boddy-twin, now was legally wed to the Shore woman. Breken Lafard had consented, consented and witnessed it. But wed or denied, that Shore woman must to go—go, else drown them all with her woeful calamities come this triple eclipse. But for that there yet was time. It was this other Lubanthan, this alive Boddy-twin, who was the important one now.
Kalamite bellowed for Ffika. Ffika came running, long skirts to his coat hitched high.
“I want all the event maps, here in my chamber. I want them since . . . aiya, since when do I want them? Aiy, since Verth started his backward tracking.” Aiy, that would be when.
“That would be the Maiden’s twenty-fourth day, Papa Hadd,” Ffika said.
“Aiy,” Kalamite clipped at the infuriating sprat. “And when did she—the Shore woman— return?”
“As I was told it, Papa Hadd,” Ffika said, moving a step away, “on the Maiden’s twenty-eighth day.”
“Aiy, those are the maps. Stup and Dizpeter, don’t just stand there looking . . . Is that another new coat?” Blue-green to honour the moons. “No matter, just bring me the maps.”
“With respects, Papa Hadd, would you not do better to examine them in the hallowed fane? You have Mathon-lamps there.”
“Ffika . . .” he glared at the runman. “Do not ever forget that I hate you, no matter that I named you to act in my place while I am away.”
“With respects, Papa Hadd, it is not my intent to annoy.”
“And that, you clever sparkling log, is why I hate you. Your pal Scheren I can tolerate. But you . . . ! Aiya, lah! Go fetch out the maps! Go light the fane! I shall be along shortly.”
He could not go directly there—and allow Ffika to believe he had influence upon him? Aiy-aiy-aiy, nix! That would not do. Instead he passed some long moments in gazing out of his window. The citadel close seemed particularly quiet. He could see none but the holden, patrolling. Aha! Yet there went that black-haired Lubanthan the Shore woman brought back with her. Kalamite watched till he was out of sight, out of the citadel via Strangers Gate. He would be off into town. Kalamite allowed a moment of musing on what the errand the Shore woman’s new servant was on. He was surprised Ffika hadn’t yet told him the common jaw of him. He was a strange one, this new servant. Short and dainty, more like a woman.
Kalamite dismissively sniffed, and turned his back on the window. He locked his chamber door behind him. He must remember to warn Ffika that, although acting the Keefer in his stead, he was not to use this chamber. Aiy, he would take the key with him; that would seal it.
In the hallowed fane he found all was prepared for him. He dragged a chair to sit at the desk. The maps showed the sky in twelve hourly snaps. See, there was Verth tracking back, though as yet his motion barely was visible. And there was Murag entering the Maiden. He glanced in the direction he thought was Shore House. The entry—he licked his lips, savouring the word—Murag’s entry had been five days before the Shore woman’s return. The Shore Maiden? And had not Lorken said of an attempted rape? Would that be on the twenty-fourth day? On Murag’s day. Aiy and what does that say, except that this Boddy is Murag’s hand. Aiy, but did he not know that already?
But, nix, look at this! Aiya, this is it! On the day of the rape Svara, in that very Maiden’s manse, was in a square alignment with Dizpeter. And Dizpeter—look at it—Dizpeter was, as still Dizpeter was, in Verth’s own duodecimanse of the Discords, a.k.a. the Twins.
A low growl sounded deep inside Kalamite, disturbing even him. It was almost as if this Boddy-double was created that day. Not Murag’s Hand as he’d thought—but the two-faced, double-dealing, back-stabbing Verth! Kalamite covered his mouth to hold back his gasp.
Excited now, he flipped through the maps.
Svara and Dizpeter stayed in alignment until . . . until . . . there! The twenty-ninth day of the Maiden. And that was the day when the first Boddy had died. Aiy, now he could see it, clear as the beads on his lover, his mother, his queen. It was that Boddy-twin, the deceased Boddy-twin, that Murag had made into his man. But the alive Boddy-twin, now wed to the Shore woman (no longer a maiden), was now clearly revealed as Verth’s hand-man. So now, how to eradicate him?
He could wait, aiy, he could wait. He could wait till the day of the eclipse. For on that day Verth would hit stasis—thereafter to gather his skirts and forge ahead. And Verth-the-Double that day would be dead.
Aiy, he liked the poetry of that. Yet it left unprotected his mother, his lover, his queen. For had he not predicted—aiy, he had predicted—Murag’s assault on her tower, four days preceding. Then, whether guised as Verth’s Double or as Murag’s Hand, would this alive Boddy-twin rape again?
Nix! Kalamite would not allow it. Nix-nix-nix! This alive Boddy-twin must die, again.
Kalamite had that right, to kill intruders.
But this alive Boddy-twin was not the intruder.
Then he must take the matter to the Witan, again to let Breken Lafard deal out the death. Aiy, but on what charge?
Before he could conjure an answer, an intruder pushed open the door. “Aiy?” he snapped. It was Scheren Runman.
“Apologies for disturbing, Papa Hadd. I have the predawn readings. I wanted to convert them to a map and here is the apt place.”
Aiy and thinking was best done in the undisturbed quiet of his chamber.
“Are you still puzzling over that Javan intruder?” Scheren asked as Kalamite passed him.
Kalamite grunted. He’d not doubt that Scheren had had that jaw off Ffika.
“With respects, Papa Hadd. Have you considered that fate cannot be averted?”
Kalamite stopped mid-step. Shudders wracked him. Stup’s blistered sister! He could no more tolerate this jert than he could Ffika. They stood close, so close he could draw his knife and . . . he saw in his mind the blood beading, red like the beads on his lover, his mother, his queen. His tongue flicked out. His lips formed as to suck.
“I smell cold on your coat, Scheren Runman,” Kalamite said and broke the incipient trance. “It cannot be pleasant up there on the roof, taking readings.”
“It’s not so bad at this season, Papa Hadd. It’s the winter. With the snow and the ice it’s slippery up there.”
Kalamite nodded as if in compassion. “Then you must beware of your footing. It would not do to, say, stand on sensitive toes.”
“Aye,” Scheren said, perhaps understanding.
“Aiy,” Kalamite said as he left the fane and the runman. The lorelline jert, too drip-headed to understand.
(For Rothi Astrology see Astronomy and Astrology, Runman-Style)
Eshe Parlan, Femella
Eshe looked at the pony. A pony, a piddling diminutive pot-bellied pony. But even a pony was better than arriving sat up on a cart. Where had her beautiful Muzzle gone? She had asked the eskuri though Jonesi thought it unwise.
“But I am no longer in disguise. And the entire intention is to attract the maniac’s attention.” Huh, and now she was rhyming, as if she were Jonesi.
“But, Hade Leef,” the eskuri told her, “you sent a message by the runman, that I should sell the beast.”
Jonesi hired the ponies. And at least her Muzzle wasn’t dead.
It felt strange to be riding again. But at least this time she was dressed for it. Disa had thrown up her hands in dismay, but then had cooperated, providing the fabrics. She wore brecks of a hemp-and-Lubanthan wool blend, hardwearing and warm, over which a soft Lubanthan-wool kirtle. She had instructed Disa’s napmaid to sow the seams only as far as the hips—she didn’t want to hitch up the kirtle, nor have the seams split. Disa had offered a blue steel belt, but she’d refused it. The links were such huge ovals that unless she remained always tram-road straight they would cut into her middle. Instead she wore her old belt, tift with Ryal’s gems. The brecks were corn-yellow, the kirtle calendula, and the head-shawl—fixed firmly to her head by a steel band—was of heavy shimmering gold-hued silk hung with quartz masquerading as diamonds. She didn’t want to be tift; she felt awkward wearing gems. However, Disa’s gift of the minever-lined cloak was another matter. A luxury, yea, but also warm, and its heavy silk outer was of a practical brown. Under the head-shawl her hair was worn loose. She felt like a woman again.
“Does anyone follow?” she asked as they crossed Tuthe Bridge.
“That is the fifth time you’ve asked, foodeloo. And again, zero I answer you.”
“He’ll be hiding,” Eshe said. “Zigging down the lanes and alleys. Which way to Churen?”
“This road, and I’ll soon have the bearing. Just ignore the Luant River veering.”
Eshe rolled her eyes as she looked up at the sky. Two days they had together, maybe three, and already his often-strained rhyming annoyed her. “Hey, Jonesi, do you help Boddy to write his songs and plays?”
“Nope. I help only with the dances. I train his mind and his body enhances.”
Yikes! She swore she’d go pappy-crack. She lapsed back into silence.
The day held fine if cold. The sky was blue unmarred by cloud. She wondered how it would be to ride in ice-laden hard-driving rain, something unknown in the warmth of Luban. They climbed out of the Tuthe valley. Either side of the road, rutted and muddy, were fields, ploughed and left empty for winter. As they neared the first hamlet the fields changed to pastures dotted with the Rothi jasckte-cattle. In summer they grazed high into the Ridge.
Her thoughts turned to Luban. Once Boddy had mended the tree and sat his butt on the vital chair she then would go home. Home, to Raselstad, to her father and the report she must write and present to the Council.
“Jonesi, will you stay here with Boddy when everything’s done?”
“Boddy is my felagi. What would he be without me?”
“Shouldn’t that be the other way round?”
Jonesi shrugged. “And you, what will you do?”
“I was hoping you might accompany me home. I admit I’m wary of passing close by those bandits again.”
Jonesi waggled his head as if considering. “Yea, I could do that for you, and return. But what about your ledhere, this Trefan?”
In answer, she shrugged.
Jonesi nodded his head. “Ho-hum, hey, Femella.”
They passed through the first hamlet—Fengoth, Disa had said, one of House Eland’s—without seeing a body, and that despite the clack and honk of chickens and geese. Was everyone busy inside with their chores? There were pigs and goats kept in pens. Though Eshe couldn’t be certain, the goats might have been sheep.
Not far past the hamlet they came to the turn-off to the Two Boars’ holdings. Disa’s holdings, or rather those of Shore House, weren’t so neatly clustered. Disa had complained, far-spread as they were, they weren’t easily managed. Not that Disa actively managed them. She had a bachelor installed at Henet, her remaining manse (the other manses were long since demolished). They were to go to the bachelor, he then would escort them.
The turning they’d taken soon became a grass-walled lane.
“Femella, may I tell you a story concerning myself?”
Eshe was surprised at the offer. “Yea, sure. But I thought you the mysterious one who never said of his life.”
“You mistake seldom for never. Who wants to know of me?”
Eshe made no comment, for, alas, that was true. In Raselstad he had been deemed a vagrant, tolerated only because he worked at the Kachinnar’s tavern.
“Yet you want to tell me something now? Yea, go ahead,” she said kindly. “I shall listen with interest.”
“Most gracious, Femella—peace, I tease.”
She frowned at him. Then realised his words were just another attempt to rhyme. It was probably his need to rhyme that was taking his time, for he was quiet for a while before he began.
“When I was . . . younger,” he began hesitantly, “I met a woman and, gods, how I loved her.”
Yea, she could hear it still in his voice.
“I would watch her in all her many moods.” He smiled wistfully at his memories. “And bright or glum she always enthralled me. Oh, but the sweet agony of wanting to be with her . . . just to touch her. I ached to kiss her. I yearned to wrap myself around her. I was hers. I could not tear myself away. I would have followed her to the northern wastes or the southern swamps, to the western High Mountains or to here, east to the Luant estuary.”
“Are you telling me this because of Boddy?” She didn’t need Jonesi’s parallels to see that’s how Boddy was with Disa. Yet all that said without a rhyme. It made Jonesi seem like a different man.
“I’m telling you because . . . because sometimes it helps to share.”
So he thought she was jealous because of Disa and Boddy? Yea, sure, she was hurting because he loved another. But she wasn’t jealous. She was envious of him with his love, that’s all. How many times these last few days had she had to bat away a tear. It never would happen for her, as her wise father knew. She always started out wearing her heart on her sleeve, only to brush it off again when things didn’t work. And one way or another, they never did work. Every time it ended the same. He said she was being picky, she said he was only after a mother and she didn’t want to be that old yet. No, her tears weren’t for what could have been. They were for what never would be.
“So what happened to her, your woman?” Eshe asked. “I’ve not heard that you’re a widow. You wear no bracelet.”
“We could not marry,” he said. “She was already bound. Then she died.”
“I’m sorry.” What else could she say.
He chuckled, which surprised her. “And why should you be sorry? You were not part of the story. At first I feared my body must break. Such pain. Then I remembered the teaching of my child-days. People die, there is no escape from it. Yet the love we have, that never fades.”
She glanced across at him, puzzled. Why was he telling her this? Was the woman Boddy’s mother? That did seem to fit. Did he tell it because he needed to share it, rather than as a means of helping her?
“What do you think are the chances of Trefan Lafard agreeing to help us?” he asked after a half mile or so of silence, when the tree-tall grasses had again given way to pasture.
“What do you think? We’re asking him to turn against his own brother. And he’s already been charged with that treason once.”
He had been charged and banished. And ever since she had ached to be with him. But she knew now it never could be. So, she took a deep breath. It was time to brush the crumbs from her sleeve yet again—another one buried.
“Foodeloo, you’re wrong you know,” Jonesi said. “We’re not asking him to turn against his brother, but to hold against another—against Kalamite.”
Kalamite, Keefer-Papa of the Runman Order
Aiya, this had been not a good day. What did he know of riding pony? Yet if he took a cart and they cut across fields and pastures how would he be able to trace them? And this would have been easier had that Ffika Runman told him sooner. He had thought of sending Ffika to track them but, aiya, could he trust the clever sprat. And would the sprat know what to do if he saw the two escaping? Not that the other one interested him. It was her, she was his prey. And now, if she was escaping, his well-laid plans would all go awry.
He almost gleefully whooped when he saw them take a turn-off. They had already missed the Luant turn; now it seemed they were heading out to Churen. Ha! So now he had them. They’d be off to keep a liaison with Breken Lafard’s ledhere brother.
“See! See there, Breken. Did I not tell you how your brother intended you harm?”
He looked up at the sky. It soon would be dark. They, he assumed, would find a night’s lodging at Churen Manse. But what of him? His best hope was a barn with the door left undone. He shivered. It was already painfully cold and these only the Witan weeks. How hard would be the coming winter? And his queen had bid him travel north. Aiya, he ought to be taking his sailing lessons, not on the road following conspirators. Yet his queen had bid him to be rid of this Lubanthan woman.
Aiya, but what titbits he’d hear, what evidence learned to help tie up the other Lubanthan. Aiy, he would suffer the cold and gladly. At least with the cold there would be no amphibs. He did hope Matikkas still had that other bank-bear; he might yet have a use of it.
Light drained from the sky of a sudden—as often it did in the equinox weeks. Now he was in total darkness until the moons rose. Stheino would be the first. He allowed the pony to find its way. A wise beast, it wouldn’t venture into a foul-water ditch or any place amphib-infested. At the end of the lane would be the manse. He would see it clearly because of its lamps.
He grimly smiled and again grunted. Aiy, cold would be the night, yet plenty would be the information.
~ ~ ~