Episode 9 of Alsalda
Master Bukarn has called a meeting. He’s not happy with the story told by the Saramequai horsemaster. Something is not being said . . . and Detah thinks she knows what it is, gleaned from something that Glania said. Now read on . . .
“It might not be anything,” Detah began, “but if the Gousen are allied with the Kerdolan, then might Clan Dragsin be behind this Kerdolak attack?”
“Whoa!” exclaimed Master Bukarn. “That’s a mighty big accusation. How do you reason it?—not forgetting that the Saramequai’s destination, Trader Imblysin, is Queen Galena’s own nephew.”
“It’s precisely that,” she said. And now she had to tell the rest of it. But she was glad. She ought to have told Demekn last night. “Glania told me it. Her father promised her at birth to Trader Imblysin—he was then serving his four as a markon. Only then it seems everyone forgot it. Her father never told her, and Imblysin never claimed her. He became a markiste.”
“That’s right,” said Master Bukarn. “He served many season too. I was surprised when he returned here—until I heard that his commander had died.”
“His honour stained, he dared not to stay?” Demekn suggested.
“You hear ill of him?” asked Master Bukarn. “No, he was back and forth to the Dal as Mandatn’s trader for several more season. More likely he just couldn’t find another horsemaster to take him—or none he got on with. The training’s intense.”
Detah sighed. She’d not yet repeated it all, and now Demekn and Master Bukarn were discussing between them.
“But I’d say you’re right,” Master Bukarn returned his attention to her. “As a markiste, Imblysin couldn’t wed. But then when he was again a trader he ought to have claimed her—had he remembered. Instead he pledged to Sapapsan’s granary. No, you’re right that he seems to have no memory of it. But you mentioned Queen Galena as well?”
Detah cautiously nodded, not to appear overly keen. “Glania was called to King Tanisven— no more than a moon since—and he dismissed her from service, despite her commander, Horsemaster Krisnavn, strongly protested—”
“Her cousin,” Demekn supplied. “The king’s younger brother.”
“The king said she was to come here, to wed Trader Imblysin. But it was the first she’d heard of the promise: no mention by her father, and never claimed by Imblysin. As Commander Horsemaster Krisnavn told King Tanisven, he’d not have taken her as a markon if he’d known of the promise. It was then that the king admitted his mother’s extraordinary memory.”
“Did Markon Glania use this word extraordinary,” Master Bukarn asked, a single brow raised.
“I’d say not,” Demekn said before Detah could answer.
“Aye, she did. That’s the very word that she used. It would have remained forgotten were it not for Queen Galena’s extraordinary memory, she said. Now don’t you think that’s odd?”
“And all this said last night?” Demekn asked her (no accusation yet of her holding it close). “She must be very angry, telling you so much of it.”
“No, Demekn, don’t see more into it. Folk say more to strangers than ever they do to their own kin,” Master Bukarn remarked.
“But she is angry,” Detah insisted. “She’s angry, King Tanisven is angry—and Commander Horsemaster Krisnavn, he’s angry too.”
“How frightful. A veritable bee’s hive,” Drea remarked, her sarcasm scarcely-veiled.
“Aye, well, I’m angry too,” Mistress Alenta carped. “Angry at you, Detah. Filling your head with Uestin chatter when you’ve no mind to learn your own craft.”
“The Mistress guides,” Eblan Shunamn slipped in, though in barely a breath.
“I can see the coincidence,” Master Bukarn agreed. “But, Detah, why would Queen Galena want to set up an ambush—if that’s what you’re saying, and if that’s what it was?”
“Oh come on,” Demekn said. “You’re not thinking, Granary Master. Clan Reumen’s wasn’t the only voice heard at the Annual Assembly. Dragsin, too, complained of the Querkan.”
“But, no, Demekn, that makes no sense,” Master Bukarn disagreed. “The Uissids made their judgement: one half of Clan Querkan to leave. If anything it should be Clan Querkan setting an ambush for Dragsin. Besides, only four of them?”
“Four king’s cousins,” Demekn reminded him.
“Then why not kill them? Or hold them to ransom? Why leave them stranded in the Wilds?”
“There’s also a question of how these Kerdolan would know four Saramequai were to pass,” added Ublamn. “And when.”
Detah had only repeated what Glania had told her. She didn’t know the answers. And now she could feel Master Bukarn’s arguments mounting against her.
“No, Detah, your suggestion has merit, but it doesn’t answer—I can’t see it’s possible. When was word sent to the Kerdolan that these four would be passing? You say Glania was called to the king just a moon since? But no one with sense sails the Lenevick Sea during the winter-half. For you to be right, Clan Dragsin must have sent word before last summer’s end.”
But Detah shook her head. “None dares sail who knows Nod’s ways. But as Horsemaster Makesen said last night, the Uestin haven’t coasts, they don’t know the sea. They wouldn’t know of sailing seasons until the Hiëmen said of it. That they then didn’t wait another two moons just says how insistent Queen Galena had been. So we need to ask why she’d been so insistent. After all. she must have her reasons. And they must be important—to her.”
“Detah is making sense,” Demekn supported her. “Queen Galena’s sudden remembrance of a promise long forgotten. The four Querkan attacked by Kerdolan along the Waters. And the queen is Clan Dragsin, Clan Dragsin are Gousen, the Gousen now trade with the Kerdolan.”
“Copper?” Master Bukarn asked him.
“So the former alliance is broken? Yet you said nothing of this when you returned,” Master Bukarn said accusingly. “You only said of the Uissids Judgement.”
“I was in no mind for talking. Besides, Luktosn’s traders must have told you.”
“They tell me only that Querkan still trades with the Ormalin—the Ormalin, and now with Kin Mhuiris.”
“Aye, well, Kin Mhuiris are everywhere, their fingers probing.”
“You two can talk all you want of trade and alliances,” Mistress Alenta said, “yet no one kills people without a reason.”
“Aye, but the Kerdolan didn’t kill them,” Detah answered.
“And that, Detah, is totally against your argument.”
But Detah shook her head at Master Bukarn. “You think they’d have survived long, stranded in the Wilds with no weapons? They’d have died there—and that’s what they intended.”
“Owls, trees and bees, legs, noses and bows, song-birds, wood-workers and bears,” Eblan Shunamn said. “Father Bear, Mother Bear, Sister and Brother Bear.”
Detah saw the look Master Bukarn gave Demekn, and Demekn’s answering shrugged shoulder. “He’s listing the gifts to the woodland-spirit,” she said.
“Hoi!” Shunamn’s wild eyebrows rose high. “You been listening at our walls? You ought not to know.”
“I’d be deaf not to know,” she said. “You’re always listing them. Gifts to the Sun-spirit, gifts to the Moon—”
“Ay-yi-yi!” Shunamn frantically waved his arms.
“Aye, I will agree you could be right of Dragsin’s involvement,” Master Bukarn said over the fuss and now sounding weary, “—or at least that you’ve touched on a truth. But we’ll wait on the river-walkers’ return, Hear what they have to say. But, this news of Markon Glania, that she’s to wed Sapapsan’s trader, that’s another matter, and that concerns me. Does he know?”
“I’d say not,” Detah said.
“But he’s the one who made the promise,” Demekn said suddenly sullen.
“Aye,” she said, “but he never claimed her. He preferred to be a markiste.”
“And as a markiste he couldn’t wed,” added Master Bukarn.
“There’s no swelling of Mistress Siradath’s belly. Perhaps Imblysin prefers to ride a horse?”
“Detah!” Mistress Alenta spluttered. “Is this learnt from your father? You think I don’t know what that Uestin word means?”
Aye, and Detah had used that word on purpose despite the Uestin had two words for ‘ride’. But she’d not offer nor beg an apology. It wasn’t right that Glania must wed the reluctant Imblysin when here was her brother who’d jump at the chance. (She inwardly grinned, for the Alisime word ‘jump’, too, had two meanings.)
“How long since I last visited Sapapsan’s Isle?” Master Bukarn asked—though perhaps he was thinking aloud. “No, I think it’s time I ventured north. What happens in the Dal, between their clans, is no interest of mine. But what happens with a granary trader, now that’s another matter. Aye, I must speak to him . . . on the morrow. I’ll go to Sapapsan’s Isle on the morrow.”
Detah’s grin began before she could catch it. She fast-fetched it back. Yet if she were quick, if she asked now . . . Mistress Alenta always was nicer when there were others to witness. “May I come too?” she asked Master Bukarn.
He looked apologetic, a frown forming. “You know that’s not for me to say.”
No, but if he said the first aye . . . “Please? I could talk with Glania while you’re speaking with Imblysin.”
“Trader Imblysin. You’ll have to remember your manners.”
“Then I can?” She couldn’t sit still. She was up on her feet.
“Sit!” Mistress Alenta snapped. “Master Bukarn is not the granary mistress. You’ll go nowhere without my saying.”
Any other morning and Detah would have been happy to wake to the plinking and sploshing of rain in the pots. She’d not have to fetch-in the water with Haldalda’s daughters from the spring north of Ardy’s north gate. But still she was up early. She had much to prepare.
“Oh!” she exclaimed when she saw Master Bukarn already there by Haldalda’s hearth, a single lamp’s lit. A brew-bowl balanced on the fire-stone by his feet. She looked at the rain-pots, each set beneath the angled awning to catch the run-off. “The Father is passionate,” she remarked though she couldn’t hide her disappointment. The heart-tree glistened, dripping with water.
“We’ll eat,” he told her. “By then His passion might well be spent.”
“And if it is not?”
“Then there’s another day tomorrow. This visit isn’t so urgent we need travel in rain.”
“But Mistress Alenta mightn’t agree it.”
It had been his wiliness had won Mistress Alenta’s permission: “Let her come with me. It’ll do her no harm to see how other granary-daughters work hard. She and Sathea are of an age, yet Sathea applies herself most diligently to the craft.”
Mistress Alenta had sniffed and muttered something that Detah didn’t quite hear, something about Master Bukarn knowing rather much about Mistress Siradath and her daughter. But then Mistress Alenta had sighed: “Best someone goes with you.”
But now, even though Demekn had cut-down his old travel-cloak to fit her much smaller frame, still, as Master Bukarn just said, they’d not go in the rain. She paced instead of eating.
“Stop fretting. Mistress Alenta has said you may go. It makes no difference if it’s today, tomorrow or another five days.”
“But you don’t know the chores we’ve to do. Five days, we’ll need start the brewing.”
The Father still was spending His passion when Haldalda and her daughters emerged from their chamber. They sang as they started the chore of emptying pots and placing out new ones. How lusty the Father, how greedy the Mother. They told the Mother to open to His passion and sup it all in. And that after Mistress Alenta had told her of saying that rude Uestin word? The grain-women, too, rose to the day in merry mood—laughing and clapping, for the fields needed the rain. They’d previously been fretting lest, in a drought, they’d lack a harvest (the previous night’s shower had been no more than fly’s piss).
Well might the women laugh and sing. All Detah could do was to heft heavy sighs—and pray the next morning Nod’s Bright Daughter would be alone in the sky.