According to Mistress Hegrea, the ‘Ladies Three’ are weaving the threads of Commander Horsemaster Krisnavn’s life together with Detah’s to form her destiny. But what is that destiny? And how is Krisnavn to deliver it? Perhaps it’ll include Megovis? . . . Read on
Megovis grunted, again, as he paced the high palisade walkway. Never had he known Krisnavn to so absently wave him away. And why? Because of this unexpected visitor. Megovis had been midway through his report when she arrived. Now he must repeat it, repeat it, else he’d forget where he was in that report.
His feet stopped—and in that moment he forgot to repeat his report. For looking down at the river he’d seen a boat, a Hiëmen boat. He squinted against the glare of sun as his eyes followed it along. A quick addition on fingers told him who this ought to be. Markon Bronanti, returned with the seers weed. At that a smile crept over his mouth. His heart felt lighter, though still far from a state of elation. Now they soon would have copper, soon the smith, soon the arrowheads cast, the arrows assembled. The ash stems were cut and ready, the feathers found (a few birds killed); the fletcher now was trimming them, the glue in the making.
But now the boat was closer Megovis frowned. He could see those aboard it. Markon Bronanti had not hair of fire-red. And neither was he slight of build. Megovis groaned. He didn’t need to see her closer to know who it was.
The boat pulled into the wharf. From his palisade-eyrie Megovis watched as the Hiëmen seamen manoeuvred her copper-coated horse ashore. He glanced back at the captains’ quarters, at the end of which was the Commander’s command room. What to do? To disobey and disturb, and warn Krisnavn? But his visitor hadn’t long been with him. And there was the matter of exactly who his visitor. Delicate looking despite the white feather bonnet and eblan-cloak of grey-heron feathers. Glimpses of a long gown of marigold-hue. Delicate, yet her face proclaimed a woman used to commanding. And her eyes! Colourless. Ice. No, whatever her business with Krisnavn, she wasn’t a woman to be disturbed.
The horse now was ashore, tramping, head tossing. The red-headed markon tried to calm him while at a safe distance, with awkward glances to horse and to barracks, stood Markon Bronanti. Megovis was glad to see him returned. Not Clan Querkan, he could have requested a different posting. Megovis had heard the grumbles. The men weren’t happy: why were these Alisime men being trained? Not that today they cluttered the compound. Ganros and Biadret had taken them down to South Rivergate. It was frustrating, unable to tell even their own Clan Querkan the truth. Yet there must not be the slightest chance of word returning to Mandatn’s Hold, to escape from there to the Dal and thence to the Gousen, Clan Dragsin. Megovis answered their questions of when they were to fight with, Not yet. Not yet. It’ll come.
Horse and markon climbed the hill. She didn’t walk well—she hobbled, and that with a crutch. He growled, deep-throated. Swift Dawn knew obedience better than she. Though usually spirited, he now meekly followed.
With another growl Megovis descended the ladder, to position himself at the gate. He’d steer her towards the corrals. That would delay her. Yet still she’d be strident, demanding at once to see her cousin. And what would Krisnavn do with her? If he’d sense he’d turn her around and send her back home. She was outright defiant, hero or not of the Massacre.
“Glania,” he greeted with no attempt to soften his tone.
She smiled in return.
“What in Uath’s holy name are you doing here?”
She looked wide-eyed at him. “But I’ve brought a gift from King Tanisven. My cousin is expecting it.”
He looked at her hands. Empty but for her horse’s reins. He lifted her travel-cloak. No satchel beneath it. Then he looked at Markon Bronanti, almost hidden, a discreet step back from her. Despite an injured hand Bronanti carried the parcels. Four of them. Large. Though they weren’t especially heavy, they were bulky. Glania looked away.
He eyed the white shirt. The white breeches. The red band at her waist. “Regiment-gear? I thought you discharged until a second assessment is made of that leg. Isn’t that scheduled for summer-next? You’re aware by wearing that gear you’re impersonating a markon?” He wasn’t sure, yet there ought to be verse about it.
“King Tanisven said two markons were needed to guard the gift.”
“One with only one hand, the other with only one leg?” Megovis shook his head, trying to master his rising annoyance.
“Like I use my leg to loose an arrow or impale a foe on my spear? Like I use it to crack a skull or to hurl a dagger? King Tanisven said together we could guard his gift to my cousin. Now, with respect, Captain Horsemaster Megovis, this leg grows weary of standing, and I’ve a horse to tend and this gift to deliver.”
“Then best you go tend your horse for your cousin is currently in a meeting, not to be disturbed. You may leave this gift safely with me.”
“With respect, no. King Tanisven said to put it into no other hands.”
“I am the Commander’s hand. And you still haven’t answered. You wear Regiment issue: Has the king reinstated you?”
She gave a swift swerve of the shoulders. More the flounce of a haughty wife than a shrug. He took that as yes.
“Uath’s bones! What duties will the Commander find you? But you still need to wait on him so best you go tend your horse. And since you won’t release the gift to me I’d best stand watch.” He strode across the deserted compound, Markon Bronanti beside him.
“Whoa! Wait!” she called.
He wiped his grin before spinning round. “Too fast for you?”
He rolled his eyes up at Saram—and saw Markon Bronanti’s swiftly-hid grin.
“A long crossing, the Lenevick Sea?” Megovis asked him.
“Worse than our first. And I’d thought the return journey long, but this . . . ” He whistled, indrawn through his teeth. “Who needs the gulls, huh.”
Megovis nodded with sympathy. And imagine how they’d be, these markons, if sent on the Kerdolan campaign. Though, truth, those sixteen days at sea didn’t enthuse him either.
“Whoa!” Markon Bronanti called from behind Megovis. “Who’s that?”
Megovis turned. The feather-cloaked woman seemed almost to glide across the compound. “I’ve not had the pleasure of names, but my guess is she’s Mistress Hegrea.”
“Hmf,” Markon Bronanti scoffed. “First our women, then our horses, now they take our stories from us?”
“No, you have it wrong,” Megovis said. “She’s not a story. The way I hear it, she’s the same woman as lured Arith away from the Dal.”
Markon Bronanti’s jaw dropped. “So what is she, a Uissid?”
“Let’s just say an Immortal, and leave it at that.”
“The feathered eblan,” Glania asked, not having heard what was said, “was that the granary’s Detah? So, if she was my cousin’s visitor she now is gone so we can deliver the gift. I thank you for your excellent warding of us, Captain Horsemaster Megovis.”
Her high air rankled. Half of Clan Querkan were cousin to the king and his brother. And neither had her family this hauteur. Was it because of the massacre? Her way to distance herself from her brother’s death and the horrors of whatever she’d seen? Well, he’d rather she cried and be done.
“Not so fast,” he said. “I shall accompany you.” If for no other reason than he wanted to see Krisnavn’s reaction to this.
He’d not long to wait. Krisnavn had followed his visitor as far the pavement in front of their quarters. “Sweet Saram, what’s she doing here!”
“Oh, and such a delight to see you too,” Glania returned.
“In there.” Krisnavn nodded his head to the open doorway. Then with Glania as good as dismissed he turned to Markon Bronanti. “Is this the king’s gift?”
“Delivered, as commanded, into your hands, Commander-sir.”
Krisnavn nodded, took the packages and passed them to Megovis. “Now how is your hand? Healed?”
“Mending, Commander-sir. Good enough to shoot an arrow to target. I thank you for asking, Commander-sir.”
“Hear that?” Krisnavn called back to Glania. “Commander-sir. Megovis, I want you in there with me. You, Markon Bronanti, take the rest of the day to regain your legs, then back to your post. And next time you cut bushes don’t aim at your hand.”
“It was an accident, Commander-sir.”
“I hadn’t thought you’d done it with intent. Did King Tanisven reward you—for the errand?”
“He did, Commander-sir.”
“Good.” Krisnavn turned and strode with a purpose back to his command room. Glania had just managed the short step up.
“Before you say,” she said, “Truvidir Yandros said I was able to make the crossing.”
Megovis closed the door behind them.
“Truvidir Yandros?” Krisnavn snorted.
Megovis stood away from him. By Beli’s Buttons, but he’d never seen the Commander this agitated. What had happened with Mistress Hegrea? For he’d swear his mood was from more than his now seeing Glania here.
“Sit!” Krisnavn told her and watched while she pulled a stool from their store by the wall. She was awkward at it. Even more so to sit on it. “How is the leg?”
“Truvidir Yandros says it’s healing.”
“Please, do yourself a favour and don’t mention that name again in my hearing.”
She reeled back as if slapped, his words that sternly said.
“So it’s healing? Then why the pain I see in your eyes and tightening your mouth? Don’t tell me it doesn’t hurt you to walk.”
Megovis saw her shoulders start to shrug . . . then lowered as she thought better of it. Krisnavn didn’t wait for further answer. “Swift Dawn been exercised much of late?”
She looked at the floor.
“Glania, it will not help the healing to ride a horse.”
“Truvidir Yandros said—”
“That venom killed your hearing? I don’t want to hear his name.”
Megovis watched her. Her nose narrowed around her indrawn breath. For a moment her lips, too, held tight. But she couldn’t hold back. “You want me to be cruel to Swift Dawn? He enjoys my company. And were it not for him—”
It was reminder enough. Krisnavn relented. He even smiled. “I’ve heard the uathren are composing verses. They sing his praises.”
“He brought me back. Without him I’d be dead. Though at the time I would have welcomed it. Racked with fever, only my gut-walls left to vomit, tormented by the fiercest of demons. But then you’ve heard my report, so you know how it was.”
For several long moments Krisnavn said nothing. He paced. When he spoke it was only to say he couldn’t have her there. “What duties can I find you? You’ll be in the way.”
“You’re sending me back? But King Tanisven thought you might send me to Bukplugn’s Hold. My sister is there, I could help with her children.”
Krisnavn laughed. “I’m sorry, but you, with children? And Demona might be your sister but have you ever met her? Same for Gimenbavnia. Besides, there are horses at Bukplugn’s. No, I’ve just thought—inspired, you might say. I’ve just the place for you. You can go to Isle Ardy.”
Isle Ardy, home of the First Granary. Home, too, of Eblan Demekn. But what can Commander Horsemaster Krisnavn find for Glania to do there? Moreover, what has the grey-cloaked eblan said to Krisnavn to cause such a change in his mood. At least one of these questions will be answered next week.