Alsalda—a neolithic fantasy:….
Four days to treat the dead and prepare for the talks. Four days for Erspn to arm himself with knowledge so that he knows how best to protect his Alsime. And for that he’s dependent upon Demekn . . . Read on.
Erspn groaned. “Demekn, please. If your intent is to make an old man breathless in waiting, please continue to tease and not to reveal.” Truly, his head was as weary as last autumn’s leaves.
“You’re not old,” Detah said with apparent sincerity.
“Well thank you. Compliment of ‘the beast’ returned. Now, Demekn, do say.”
“Aye, well it’s . . . well, why would Clan Dragsin and Clan Reumen—the only two clans to complain—wait till the Annual Assembly, where King Tanisven was to be tested, when it’s more usual to raise a complaint at the time of grievance? You might note that Tanisven had already served three Rules of Four.”
“You’re saying—Dragsin, is it?—”
“Rizzoni’s Clan Reumen, and Gousen’s Clan Dragsin, aye.”
“You’re saying these two, Rizzoni and Gousen, wanted your Querkan King Tanisven gone?” Erspn asked though, aye, that did seem obvious.
“I’d say not the tuds, Gousen and Rizzoni. No, rather I’d say the clans, Reumen and Dragsin, they wanted it. Then not only ‘gone’, but gone to Uath’s Land. See, if their complaints were upheld then King Tanisven would be declared neglectful. A new ‘Thrice Chosen King’ must be found.”
“Now you’ve said this before. ‘Thrice Chosen’, what does it mean?”
“I’ll say it,” Detah jumped in while Demekn ran his fingers through his already much-rumpled hair. “The first choosing is Saram’s. But in not speaking He can only use signs. When the truvidiren see Saram’s sign they call it the second choosing.”
“It’s like you seeing Detah is inspired,” explained Demekn.
Erspn nodded. He understood it. So far.
“The truvidiren then train the ‘Twice Chosen’ in the proper ways of the Dal-King. And when the clans accept him he becomes ‘Thrice Chosen’. Their ‘Thrice Chosen King’.”
“But that’s only Once Chosen,” Erspn objected. “Once chosen, once recognised, and once accepted. So what happens if the clans don’t accept him?”
“That doesn’t happen,” said Demekn. “Saram has chosen him.”
“This Commander Krisnavn, you say he’s ‘Thrice Chosen’?”
“Twice,” Detah said. “We’ve still to accept him.”
“Well, I’d say that’s now firm in my head. Though how I’ll ever explain it to your sister? So now, what’s this second thing that makes you uneasy, about the Judgement?”
“It’s the complaint. It’s true there are noble clans unable to support their claim to nobility. But not the two who made the complaint, not Dragsin and Reumen.”
“Let me say,” Detah said, again skipping, now between Demekn and Erspn (Erspn tried to excuse her. She was young, she’d been cooped up of late). “Clan Dragsin provided the present king’s mother, Queen Galena. While Clan Reumen’s King Rudrens just scrapes into the four generations.”
“So they were being considerate of others,” Erspn suggested.
“Had it been openly said.” Demekn agreed. “But let me quote Clan Reumen—and before you ask, I stood right beside their lore-man and heard him clearly. Clan Querkan has provided three kings in succession. What a mighty burden for one clan to bear, and for so long. But that is nonsense! Providing a king is no burden at all. Aye, he provides for his Regiment, and provides lavish feasts at each village on his annual circuit. But he does so from the takings that he sets on his people that his lore-men administer.”
“So you think these ‘Dragsin and Reumen’ were merely using this of the—what did you call it, the ‘Law of Noble Clans’?—as an excuse to remove the Querkan King Tanisven? What, you think they want to slip in their own man—‘Thrice Chosen’?”
“See! It’s not only me who can see it.”
“But why?” Erspn asked—he had only been jesting. “Yet if you’re serious, and they’re coming here—not that we can stop them—but if they’re to bring troubles then, Demekn, I must know of it. I must be prepared. Regardless of your sister Drea, that is what the Ancestors advised me.”
“First,” Demekn answered, “you must understand, there’s a long-standing feud between Reumen and Querkan—”
“They squabble like children,” Detah put in, “over whose land is Chadtamen’s Pass.”
“Is that what it is?” Demekn asked.
“Aye. Did you not know?”
“Well, I must say that makes sense. Chadtamen’s Pass gives onto Dal Sahalis. Until recent seasons the Rizzoni had its copper from there, from the Saëntoi and Ormalin.”
“Until recent seasons. So whence now?” Erspn asked.
“The Rizzoni Chief Krinik has begun taking copper from Kin Mhuiris, to the west of them. While the Gousen, Clan Dragsin, are known to be entertaining the Kerdolan.”
“Ah, the Kerdolan. I wondered where they featured in this,” Erspn said. “I do hope I’ll not regret the asking but . . . You keep saying of the Uissids Judgement and, though I know it broadly—that Clan Querkan seeks a new place to dwell and have till summer-next—yet I am wondering.I mean . . . what I’m saying, Demekn, is, we and our Alsime must be prepared. I need to know the full terms of this judgement.”
“There are several parts to it,” Demekn said.
“Aye, well, I knew it wouldn’t be simple.”
“First,” he said, “this is King Tanisven’s last Rule of Four.”
“As you said.”
“Aye, but the complaint was brought.”
“So . . .?”
“So he ought to be dead, and that’s the truth of it,” Demekn said. “The Uissid Urinod is being . . . . shall we say ‘lenient’? But then no doubt he, like the truvidiren, know that Clan Querkan aren’t really to blame. Yet by giving the Judgement, if King Tanisven then deviates one step from it he’ll still be swiftly dead.”
“Now that is interesting,” Erspn observed. “And you say this Commander Krisnavn is King Tanisven’s brother? So he’ll not want his brother killed?”
“I have heard that the brothers are close—as they were with their cousins, now dead.”
“That could give us a start—though, no, I’ll tell you my thoughts on that later. Next part of the Judgement, hmm? Come on. I’d like to sleep this night, and I see it approaching.”
“It’s not yet midday,” Detah gainsayed him.
“Clan Querkan are prohibited from providing a king for forty-eight summers,” Demekn quoted.
“Forty-eight? That’s an odd number,” Erspn remarked. “It’s not even half the one hundred seasons of their four generations.”
“It’s three Rules of Four,” Detah explained.
“In setting the period of prohibition to only three Rules, the Uissid Urinod has allowed Clan Querkan to remain as a noble tree-clan. At least with this ruling.”
“In future,” Detah quoted the next Uissids ruling, “no noble clan is to take more than one wife in four from outside Dal Uest.”
“There were loud grumblings at this,” Demekn said. “But the Dal borders now are secure, no further need of the border-alliances. Though I’d not like to be a lore-man there now. Aye, the watch needed to keep this new law. It’s a nightmare!”
Again, Detah came in with the next ruling. “The noble clans are to give no more than one in four wives to the peoples beyond Dal Uest.”
“Which follows upon the previous new law,” Demekn added. “And this includes making arrangements with other Dals.”
“How many Dals?” Erspn asked. “I’ve heard you say of Dal Nritris.”
“Dal Uest, Dal Nritris, Dal Usast and Dal Sahalis,” Detah answered before Demekn could say.
“But that ruling was aimed mostly at the Gousen clans. They border with Dal Nritris and ally mostly with them.”
“I’m seeing here, this Uissids Judgement applies to more than Clan Querkan. Did Dragsin and Reumen maybe bite into a wasps’ nest with their complaint?”
“I’d say it’s intended to maintain the peace,” said Demekn.
“I like to hear that. So, the Dal seeks peace? Shame, then, they come here, disturbing ours.”
“Only one clan,” said Demekn.
“Let’s hope so. So, they’ve found a hole and they’ve plugged it. Peace-seeking, law-making, your Uissid Urinod perhaps has much wisdom. Is that it, the last part of the Judgement?”
“No,” said Demekn.
“Clan Querkan’s numbers must be reduced,” Detah supplied.
“Well, if they’ve grown too strong, aye, I’d see that as keeping the peace.”
“It’s that which has caused such . . . disturbance,” Demekn said. “When . . . when it was announced, the entire of Clan Querkan fell into utter silence. Muted by horror. After all they’ve done for the Dal, to have such thanks? Three Dal kings in succession, not one of them killed because in his reign there’d been trouble. The commander of the Saramequai Division of the Dal Regiment, all three Saramequai captains, nine of the twelve markistes serving them—and of the markons (twenty serving each markiste) only eighteen are not Clan Querkan. Clan Querkan has given this to the Dal. They serve; they never have taken.”
Erspn watched Demekn, and his brow arched high. “And you say you’re Clan Reumen?”
“No. I said my father’s mother was of Clan Reumen. I was sent to Luktosn’s Hold—it’s the granary way. Luktosn’s sent me to the Dal. I’d not have gone, but I had to obey.”
Erspn nodded. He too had been granary-born, he too had been sent to an Ulvregan hold. But then he’d been sent to Banva Go. “Go on. I jest not, but night will be upon us.”
“Having made the announcement—that Clan Querkan’s numbers were to be reduced—the question then was how. Were they to be killed? Slaughtered at the feast of Kassis, perhaps? But no. Uissid Urinod allows them life, and only half of their number are to leave Dal Uest. But where can they go? There is no land. Dal Nritris, Dal Sahalis, Dal Usast—or the lands held by the Ormalin, the Lugisse and Kin Mhuiris, the Bridren, the Hiëmen? There is no land for them.”
“I hear keen feeling for them,” Erspn remarked. “Aye, and were their sight not set on this land, I too would feel for them. Is that it now? Is there more?”
“No. I mean . . . aye. Aye, there is more—though, as I remember, by now the Chief Truvidir’s words were lost amid uproar. But, of those Querkan remaining, the houses and land they hold at Querksvik will be reduced to six—each village has twelve houses only, that’s another Dal-law. Now at Querksvik (Clan Querkan’s own village) they’re allowed to retain only six.”
“This is where the Querkan king lives?”
Demekn shook his head. “No. No, there’s a King’s House in every village though King Tanisven and his family hail from Karpsvik.”
He wished he’d not asked, lost now amid more new names. “Continue.”
“All other Querkan remaining will join Clan Villant and from that day forth will be of their number. But Clan Villant’s not even a lesser tree-clan. It’s a plant! Previously Bridren.”
“Those who wouldn’t submit when . . . ?”
“Aye, those whose land was taken, the grandchildren of slaves. But though they’re to be counted amongst Clan Villant, they’ll not share the Villant village. Quilsvik, Labsvrik and Rosvik have empty plots; they are to go there. There they’ll build their houses. There they’ll learn to lower their heads. Thus reduced. Dispersed. Demoted.”
“And there you stood, while all this was said? Beside Clan Reumen’s lore-man?”
Demekn nodded grimly.
“So we can expect Clan Querkan not to like you?”
“Krisnavn said he was much impressed with Demekn’s Regiment song,” Detah said. “He, for one, won’t be against him.”
“No, of course not. How useful to him, to have someone Dal-bred to instruct us.”
“Hush, Demekn. I know that it’s not. No, you and I want the same thing: To accommodate this Clan Querkan King with as little blood shed as possible. That is the Alisime way, and ever has been.”
“There’s one more thing,” Demekn said. “A truvidir was assigned to Clan Querkan. Yandros, his name. He’s to ensure they follow every word of the Judgement. Should they not then, as I said, King Tanisven is dead. So you see, they’ll not walk away from Alisalm-land, not now they’re here.”