Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin aka Boddy
Breken was dead, killed at a reach by Kalamite. Kalamite, too, was dead, fallen from the high walkway between the towers. Now Boddy sat on the legere-chair in the Witan Chamber. But he curled his lip at what surrounded him. Gold. Murky’s Curse. Yet rather would he have that gold displayed here, to brighten the cold stone chamber, than to have it hoarded by the lafarden, to be hidden away in their subterranean vaults.
Even more than the gold Boddy disapproved of this enthroning ceremony. The idea of people bowing and offering him obeisance—Yeah-zo! After all he’d said of his uncle. But as Disa had said when he’d erupted, spewing forth his adamant refusal, they’d not be bowing to him. It was the legere-chair they honoured. For that chair, so she’d said, held a power relayed in turn to every lafard-legere who legally sat up it.
“Amend that, sweet scholar,” he’d bitten back. “Not ‘lafard-legere’, but the king who sits on the chair.”
“Ay, well,” she’d allowed, shoulders seductively swaying. “But king or lafard-legere, the lafarden submit to he who sits upon the chair, and he who sits upon it must then in return accept responsibility for them.”
Ghats and rats, man, he’d not liked that either. It took Mikel Awis most of a day to explain it.
The lafard legere—“King,” Boddy had again corrected—was responsible for the well-being of all within the citadel and its environs (the surrounding town and the hamlets). If they should starve for lack of a harvest, the blame would be his. If their herds and flocks should fail to increase, the blame would be his. If plague should rip through their numbers—“Fine, yeah, great, I’ve got the lyric. The blame will be mine.”
“And thus, before this ceremony begins,” said Trefan, “you must bend your knee to the gods—on your people’s behalf.”
“Natzo! I bend to the Magnificent Maker only—in whatever his avatar.”
“And all gods are he,” said Trefan.
“And, with respects, Hadd Leef.” Ffika sneakily added, “That includes the Varlet Verth.”
“Ouch!” It seemed the Varlet Verth had him clutched, right tight, in a rigid iron clasp.
“It is for you, also, to order the War Games,” said Trefan.
“I will not! Ghats and Verth, I won’t have fighting. What, and your armsmen dying?”
“But without the Games at the start of your reign, every one of our neighbours—at least the six nearest–will demand a tribute from Citadel Lecheni; a tribute your lafarden must contribute. Is that what you consider good care of your Houses? And those six will quickly increase to who knows what number once they discover we allow a weak lafard-legere—”
“—to sit on our chair. And at that, Lecheni’s lafarden will promptly remove you for failing to ensure the well-being of all.”
“Spew on it, man.” Boddy did not understand. “You say of well-being yet you expect me to condemn them to die in these Games. How does that fit? And is it ‘well-being’ that they then leave widows forbidden to wed?”’
“And thus our laf—king—ensures our numbers remain apace with our resources,” Mikel spread his arms in a wide flourish, “and the jollies of peace are enjoyed by all. Is that not better than all should starve?”
Boddy wanted to snap at them, Natzo! That the ends didn’t justify the means. And it wasn’t right. But he remembered what Gammer Haspra had said: ‘First get the woman. You can find a way to live with her in Rothi after.’ Yeah, great, fine. But Gammer Haspra hadn’t known he was to be king.
There had to be changes—hulking great changes—and these Rothi folk weren’t going to like it. So he’d have to be clever in how he ordered them, so they’d see and appreciate at once their benefit. But, Ghats and rats and shrivelling nats, this wouldn’t be easy. And along with that, when would he have time to fatten a plant?
“I want Jonesi to train your armsmen—your folkhere,” he told Trefan. “They are the ones who fight in the War Games? And before you object, yeah, I’m not talking here of training in the use of weapons.”
“You mean them to dance?” Trefan laughed. “But, peace. Your Jonesi has already explained it: When body and mind are working together, light then can be made of the heaviest weather.”
Yeah, that sounded like something Jonesi had said. But these talks with Mikel and Trefan had been the least of it. Ghats, seriously now, these past few days had not been easy.
There had been Kervalet Begator (Trefan’s uncle who served as Treasurer). His eyes had followed Boddy’s every movement as Boddy inspected the Treasury. The hoarded wealth offended Boddy. Greatly. And, yeah, his face and his body had probably shown it. But, by the Holy Avatar, just look at it! Numberless chambers full to brimming with precious metals, with silks and cottons and Lubanthan wools, with gemstones aglitter like . . . like the sun sparkling off bedewed gord-meadow.
“All had as tribute—Hadd Leef,” Kervalet said. “And don’t you scorn it. You’ll be glad of its presence when the next hurricane comes—and one will come, you can be sure of it. You know of hurricanes do you, in Luban?”
He gave Boddy no time to answer else he would have said of the hurricanes that regularly ripped across the plain from out of the Daab, uprooting the trees, smashing them into the woven-grass houses. Hence the storm-cellars required by law to be built beneath every Gord- and Council-House.
“Nah, with respect,” Kervalet went on, disrespectfully. “What would a Javanese outlander know; you’ve not known one yet. But then you’ll see how this treasure here will buy clothes and blankets for the hindlings who have lost everything. It’ll buy food in the famine that always comes after. And healing potions for the resultant plague of ailments. It’ll buy hands and backs to ensure the rebuilt of housing, workshops and barns. Huh, Javanese! What do you know of us—and you claim yourself our lafard-legere.”
“Your king,” Boddy corrected him.
“Ay, king. Well I’ve been into that Holy Book and looked for that word, and I didn’t elect you, Legere.”
Kervalet Begator wasn’t alone in his rejection of Boddy. Iffig, Kervalet’s son, sat in Two Boars House, silently brooding, and doubtless dreaming up some sabotage. But Boddy could understand that. He had been named by Breken to be his heir if Affalind proved herself barren. Then Boddy came along . . .
Garawen, too, was discontent. He’d thought himself the sivator yet was in post for only three days. Boddy had already heard the talk of him. Now he noticed how thickly seeded this would-be sivator was with riches. So, with an eye to the resources he’d been given to guard, he’d asked Kervalet for a full reckoning of the Treasury. He would have Eshe verify the inventory before she left for Luban. Boddy need do no more; the implication was clear. Who but Kervalet had keys to the Treasury. And unless Garawen was the plaything of some wealthy lafard—probably blind, for the plaything weren’t pretty—then a question hung over his jewels.
Boddy dismissed Garawen to reinstate Gowen.
Garawen ran to his mother, crying.
“Gowen’s old,” his mother, the widow Ellorne, said. “Who is to follow him?”
“Gowen Lafard,” Boddy corrected her. Yeah-zo, these folk, all flowered with titles, they ought to remember to use them properly. “Gowen Lafard’s son is even now travelling to join us here. He will be trained to it.”
“If that ruffler has a son, then he’s born out-of-walls,” Garawen jeered.
“Reihen,” Boddy said in unaccustomed arched tones, “was born in Citadel Mefhi. At Vizard House, a property held by Gowen’s brother—and that after his parents were properly wed.”
No sooner had the Two Boars hushed their tongues than House Eland launched an attack. Ilud Marsled declared—publicly, in the Witan: “Never shall I bow my head, nor bend my knee, to that-that-that—Javanese usurper!”
Spew on it, man, Boddy was tired of it. And Blessed Avatar, was this the worst they could give as an insult: Javanese? Besides, what exactly did ‘Javanese’ mean but the grower and supplier of a particular incense, given in the Good Book as luban-jaw.
“My-my-my, what a tantrum,” Mathon mocked the son of his eldest uncle. “Yet it makes not a piece of difference; no, not indeed. For you, Ilud, are not the lafard. That lafard is me.”
“Aye, but wait till you’re dead,” shouted Ilud. “Then that lafard is me.”
“And you will be dead the sooner if you keep shouting like that,” Helan, Mathon’s wife, quietly said.
“Hush and forget them,” Jonesi had said of Ilud and Kervalet. “They’re not the bosses; it’s Trefan and Mathon who votes for those Houses.”
Yeah, but they still could stir up a Jacob’s nest. Then again, though it didn’t excuse the evil looks Ilud Marsled and his sons had levelled at Boddy, House Eland was still grieving for Affalind-Hade. Mathon apologised for it.
“Affalind was our only child—our only one as lived. And now she’s dead without producing a son, oh my, not even a one. My Helan is beside herself, beside, I say, distraught indeed. And having her brother, her supposedly considerate and loving brother, tattling into her ear of you, Boddy Lafard King-Legere . . . aye, my-my, for her, it is unfair.”
Maybe Disa had mentioned it at some time earlier, but it was only when Mathon said of the relations that Boddy understood the full implications of the House Eland-Two Boars alliance: Helan—Affalind’s mother—was Kervalet’s sister. Ghats! Breken had wed his cousin. Great, yeah, fine, though, as with amongst the Lubanthan nobles, in the Rothi citadel Houses such first-cousin weddings were common, yet to Boddy it seemed wrong.
And now, after all the talks and the outbursts, the refusals and reversals, it was time for the lafarden to bend knee and silently to pledge, and in return to receive.
By tradition the newest-made lafard was always the first. But here there were two, and one, at least, was guaranteed to cause a stir. Boddy decided to keep that one to last. Instead he arranged that only Gowen Sivator should be so hnoured. Anyway, he’d long been taken as a lafard.
Gowen stopped at the golden bar that separated the king from his people. Boddy had wanted that gone; he wasn’t pleased it still remained. He’d been told its removal would ruin the red marble floor.
After Gowen Sivator came Mathon. Though aged he seemed nimble enough as he bent his knee on behalf of House Eland and in return received the king’s promise.
Trefan Lafard, next, gave and received on behalf of Two Boars. The faces behind him said he still was alone in accepting Boddy as king. Yeah-zo, and what would happen when Otian returned and heard the news? Boddy could see more trouble coming, with him knowing Boddy from Uncle Kachinnar’s tavern. It would be then that the disgruntled component of Two Boars and House Eland would conspire. As well that he had some other support for Mathon was old, and Trefan must soon be absent.
Boddy couldn’t refuse Trefan the permission. Ghats, what to accompany Eshe to Raselstad where she was finally to make her report on Ryal? Boddy grinned each time he thought of it: the stream of curses when Ryal saw the ledhere there. He’d probably think Boddy had betrayed him. Then while in Raselstad Eshe and Trefan would marry. Boddy was pleased for her, though now Disa was complaining that she wanted to be there, too. Yeah, great, and so did Boddy but, hey, that’s how it falls (something of fate and the good gods stirring). And Eshe would return. She was to enter Mikel Awis’s service, though not as a stew. He’d agreed to take her and train her to be his successor. Boddy didn’t know what she’d done to so impress him but, again, he was glad for her.
It was the Awis who next came forward, hands irreverently clapping before doing homage on behalf of Rams House. They—all the inhabitants, even of the Gardens—were fully in favour of Boddy Lafard King-Legere. Mikel chuckled as he backed away, muttering of all ending well. Hey, what’s this of ending? Natzo, it was far from that yet.
There were surprised murmurs when Disa stepped forward. But, hey, the king’s family had as much need of his promise as did the others. And many a legere met his demise at the hands of his own kin. Besides, Shore House had the largest holdings of the Lecheni Houses (though Boddy slowly was off-loading them). But, were their hamlets and artisans, fishermen and seamen to be overlooked in this symbolic ceremony? So Boddy had insisted that Disa do this.
Then came the runmen. And at this even Rams House broke into a noisy chatter, their voices lost beneath the uproar from House Eland. Yeah-yeah-yeah, and neither had Boddy been immediately in favour when Disa first suggested it.
“Disa-sweet, they have no holdings,” he had protested. “Without at least the one a House can’t present a lafard.” That’s what she’d told him in reference to Gowen. Boddy had it in mind to make certain changes, and thereafter a lafard wouldn’t need so much wealth. But that wasn’t yet. As yet it still was most irregular.
“Ay,” Disa had answered—sweetly. “And Ffika has told me all the problems they have with an income. Did you know the other citadels allot their runmen some portion of the taxes? But Breken—the mean-fisted wart—refused it. These past many years they’ve survived with nothing but the gifts from those seeking advice.”
Boddy had scoffed. Ghats, the superstitious folk who couldn’t wipe their arses without first consulting some oracle! He kept quiet of the Luban’s oracles; they weren’t runmen to rely upon stars.
Disa had quoted a list of Kalamite’s correct predictions. “That someone from Luban would enter the citadel. That that same someone would replace the lafard-legere. That the triple eclipse would bring calamity to me, of Shore House.”
“Yeah? And what was the calamity?”
“You died, you lorelline jert! And you drowned! And-and Mallen abducted me. Kalamite even said of the semol tree, that you would ‘do’ something to it. Though that he never voiced to others, only to Ffika. Now you cannot deny it, his every prediction has come true.”
“Great, yeah, fine. But not quite as he’d envisaged. Invasions and Dragons and—”
“Hay la-and-nah, admit it! If Kalamite hadn’t pointed his finger at Raselstad I would not have been sent to spy. And then you would not have met me. Think on that. Instead, Breken would have given me to that lafard-legere, whatever his name, of Citadel Pot.”
He couldn’t deny what she’d said. And so to quieten her he had invited Ffika Runman to dine at Shore House. The talk at times grew heated, but Jonesi served as moderator. When Boddy had repeated, much as Trefan had said, of trusting to predictions made from the movement of planets—for to Boddy that’s all these old gods were—it was Jonesi, not Ffika, who answered.
“Didn’t the Magnificent Maker make everything that today exists?”
“And that includes the sun?”
“Heli,” both Disa and Ffika interrupted together.
“And the planets?”
Boddy shrugged, not liking the way this was going. “Yeah. Sure.”
“And set them to moving in their observable patterns?”
“Yeah,” Boddy said, now grudging.
“And the Magnificent Maker made us too?”
“Jonesi . . .” Boddy pleaded.
“Well, did he or did he not?”
“Then why shouldn’t he also have made it so our lives are affected by those same planets? And why shouldn’t messages be written there for us? And why shouldn’t these planets serve as his avatars?”
Boddy held up his hands in surrender.
That evening had been lively, with never a lull. And Boddy discovered, to his pleasant surprise, that Ffika had the sharp enquiring mind of a scholar. He was well-read and knowledgeable, too. And by the end of the evening Boddy had given the hamlet of Juren to Runman —which wasn’t what Disa had wanted of him.
“But we have too many,” Boddy said when they were alone. “And, hey, weren’t you the one who said we should honour the runmen? Ah, but you think I should have done it with a tithe from the taxes, yeah? As if the runmen were some Old World religion? But, Disa, they’re not. I’ll recognise them for their advice, but they are not a religion. Besides, it’s my intention that the taxes should go.”
It was his first mention of it. Disa had squealed. “But the War Games, the tributes.”
“Yeah, and have you not heard of confederation?”
She looked at him, puzzled. Then flicked through the Holy Book until she found it. “Confederation: ‘United by covenant’.”
“Yeah, Disa—as in the Lubanthan Accords.”
Disa laughed. “You truly think the Rothi citadels will agree to that?”
“Not if I boldly visit each, saying, loh, what of this. Natzo. Nah, I agree it’ll take more than my gifted tongue. They’ll need to see the advantage, then they’ll agree it. Hey, Disa, it’s worth a try. And hasn’t Ffika just said of something important affecting all in Rothi to happen in a few couple of years? Well I’d say it’s this.”
“You have grand plans.”
“I didn’t ask to be king. But now I am, I intend to make use of it.”
“And make all of us Lubanthan?”
He had ignored her remark, putting it down to the triple eclipse.
~ ~ ~
Ffika Lafard, Keefer of the Runman Order, stepped up to the golden bar amid the expected uproar. Neither Mathon nor Trefan could hold down the clamour from their respective Houses.
“Peace!” Jonesi stood and with his raised voice called. “Hold cool! Your king needs address you.” To Boddy he said more quietly, “The best rhyme I could find.”
Boddy suppressed a grin, but nodded the same. He stood, glad to be able to stretch his legs after so long in sitting.
“Trefan and Mathon Lafarden have both already questioned this.” Indeed, Trefan’s questions had been repeated by Eshe who wanted to know if maybe Boddy’s senses had been washed out with the drowning. “I will repeat to you, now, as I said to them: ‘In all other citadels the runmen are honoured’.”
“Aye, but nowhere are they lafarden,” shouted an angry Ilud.
“And nowhere else hosts the Runman’s Keefer,” Boddy replied. “Here is their prime house. Yet that is not the reason I have so honoured Ffika Lafard. It is a personal; in gratitude of the runmen bringing me here to Citadel Lecheni.”
“Aye, but they were supposed to have kept you away,” said Garawen.
Boddy held wide his hands in a helpless gesture. “Hey, can fate be denied?”
Ay, Felagi, with what lays ahead you might care to remember it. But Boddy had no time to question if that was really the voice of his little god Roo.
“The runmen brought me to Citadel Lecheni, though I did not seek it,” he said.
Then what were those sixteen years of, ‘Oh give me my inheritance?’ Well, Boddy Felagi, now you have it.
Boddy nodded, slight, to the bodiless voice of (he assumed) his little god Roo, and continued with his address. “For that I honour them. They brought me my wife, Sifadis Lafdi Bel Hade. And no greater happiness could a man know, as I’m sure you’ve discovered—well, possibly not Garawen.”
There was laughter at that as he’d intended, even from those who stood against him.
“I honour the runmen for all of that. And that they brought me to this, my inheritance. And if I—who am Lubanthan-born and Lubanthan-raised and always have mocked and been against them—can thus honour the runmen this greatly, why then can you who are Rothi not?”
That quietened them.
“They’re probably stumbling over the syntax,” Jonesi said quietly when Boddy again sat.
“Wasn’t it right?”
“Hey, you’re the one attended Verse and Comp School. Me, I merely the fool.”
“With respect, Hadd Leef,” Ffika Lafard said loudly enough that, despite the distance imposed by the gold bar, all must have heard him. “I thought you might like to know, our Rubel-Semol this morning is sprouting new leaves.”
Boddy grinned and nodded. This was indeed the very best news. He repeated it louder still in case any had missed it. Now he could turn his attention to fattening the Daabian plants in her garden.
You think this is your inheritance complete? asked a voice which definitely was not his little god Roo. This is far from it all.
And a Happy Christmas to All!
(Keep watching this blog for Something Else Entirely Different. Coming Soon)