Palys has spoken, cuckold ‘father’ of Bregan. Now is the turn of Markenys, whose climactic career involves a certain amount of puppetry. Not that Markenys knows that, not till his master deigns to show a hand . . . Read on.
When today I remember my family it seems I’m no longer a son of theirs. So many happenings bringing so many changes. Though it’s not they disowned me, nor I them. Yet they did disapprove. My father would have had me serve the Four as a markon in the Regiment—as my two brothers before me had done. It was the ambition of every good Querkant son.
But not me. I refused it.
My father raged at me. “We are Querkant! We live in Querkslunt! You will serve the Four.”
“Aye,” I agreed, “I shall serve the Four. But not as a markon.”
He blustered, “Then what, if not as a markon?”
I said, “As an assistant to a law-man.” Not that I had a special desire to be a law-man. It didn’t appeal to me one jot. But neither did being a markon. I was not then, and never have been, a warrior. The mere hint of killing, I quake. Let those who can do, but let me do otherwise.
My father still holding his storm, I reminded him of our ancestor, him to whom we traced our glunan. “I shall be following the steps of Truvidir Demekn. He, too, was an assistant to a law-man.”
What could my father say to that?
“I cannot stop you,” he said with a violent shrug. “But I’ll tell you this: After you’ve served the Four as an assistant to a law-man, do not expect me to take you in and give you the makings of a herd the way I have with your brothers. For I will not.”
I answered shrug for shrug—though mine with feigned nonchalance.
Despite this disagreement, my father found a master for me to serve. Ivys, law-man to Chief Nevant of Clan Querkan. And with him I served the Four and from him learned the verses of the Common-Law, those governing life and land.
But the four years passed, I then had to decide what to do. I could not return to my family: my father had been quite clear on that.
Law-man Ivys wanted me to continue in service to him, to learn to be a law-man too. As a law-man I might serve a chief—or an eldliks as they’re known amongst the Alsimuk clans. He said if I had sufficient skill maybe I could serve the truvidiren and thus serve the kings. According to him, I did have that skill—though I still needed to work at it. Aye, and so I may have had, but I had no liking for being a law-man. Four years had filled me until I was yawning.
Instead, I decided to be a harpist. Their life seemed to me most easeful, attending the Five Feasts, invited to the banquets hosted by chiefs, lords and kings. And who knows, maybe one day I’d play for the Alsaldic King.
Despite my master Ivys tsked when I told him what I wanted, he, like my father, found for me a suitable master. Harper Alen. But I was not long with him when I realised this life, too, was not to my liking. Oh, I learned the stories with ease and enthusiasm. No, it was that harp: I could not master it. Harper Alen could have thrashed me yet he did not. Instead, he suggested I trained to be a buädhir.
“What!” I exclaimed. “That’s a mere seven years from being a truvidir.” It was never my intention to rise so high.
“Yet you have the ability,” Harper Alen insisted.
“I enjoy the stories, is all,” I said.
“And in training to be a buädhir you’ll learn more of the stories.” He was doing his utmost to encourage me. He said, “You’ll learn all the glunan of the kings and chiefs and eldlikses and . . . And you’ll learn about the Alsaldic Lands and how they came into being and . . . And you’ll learn about the Formed World—how it was created—and . . . And you’ll learn about the many peoples and how they order their lives in the strangest of ways and . . . And you’ll learn about the divinities, the spirits and the demons.”
I said, “But I’ve already learned this, in serving Law-man Ivys.”
Harper Alen laughed. “You learned the law, you learned the verses. You learned none of the stories upon which those same verses were set a thousand—no, two thousand—years before.”
Two thousand years of stories? That, I thought, could hold my interest. But, then, when I had learned all this, what next? I confess, though everyone knew of the buädhren, I, for one, had never known what their purpose. I knew that the law-men occasionally referred to them on questions of law, but other than that . . . What were they for?
Harper Alen answered me. “They are interpreters . . . Because they know and understand everything about the three worlds.”
But was this what I wanted? True, I had no ear for music and I did enjoy stories. And stories two thousand years old, and knowledge of the three worlds?
And so Harper Alen found for me another master: Buädhir Kolomik. Buädhir Kolomik was in the keep of King Dathes, the twenty-eighth Alsaldic King. For the last three years of that king’s fourteen year reign I resided with him.
In serving Buädhir Kolomik I discovered a most enjoyable life. We accompanied the king as he processed round the Alsaldic Lands. From South Eskin Head to Porcynnis (though I wasn’t keen for those northern sea-crossings), from the Point of the Broken Hand to Ul Dlida and Liënershi, we travelled everywhere with him. I sat beside his own truvidir at the King’s Feasts and banquets (though only in my master’s absence). I was present at every decision made—Should he send the Regiment to King Blada of the Lowlands to help him fight against the invading Nritrin? This, I am sure, brought more honour to my family than my serving the Four as markon ever could have done. Though, true, honoured are those who die in battle.
For three whole years such was my life, and how I enjoyed it! Then Old Mother Death took King Dathes. It was an honourable death for an Alsaldic King; the celebrations lasted three trikadents. Meanwhile, King Rufiäl had been declared the True Heir.
King Rufiäl had his own buädhir and truvidir. He had no need of Buädhir Kolomik. My master must find another to serve. He went to Chief Nastren of Clan Krisvin—which turned out to be a wily move. King Rufiäl, too, was a Krisvint and when his buädhir died—of flux (though perhaps it was poison)—he called on Chief Nastren’s buädhir to replace him. We were back at the King’s Hold, and I could again enjoy life!
I remained with my master the full seven years, at which he declared me a capable buädhir. I now was Buädhir Markenys, and I had now to find a chief or eldliks, king or lord to serve. Who would it be? Though there were many, most already had buädhren to serve them.
“You look in the wrong places,” Buädhir Kolomik told me. “You’d do best to look for a truvidir to serve. You have the ability.”
At that I laughed. For to serve a truvidir was to train to be one—another seven years of training and learning!
But my former master persisted. “I happen to know that Truvidir Biädtren is thinking of taking an apprentice.”
At that time Truvidir Biädtren was serving King Puchelt of the Heath, in East Isle. I hesitated. King Puchelt’s land was surrounded on three sides by lands subject to the Nritrin. I’d heard enough of them to prefer to stay far away. Brutal savages lacking in honour, with no laws to govern them, intent on trampling other peoples’ lands, slaughtering all who stood in their way.
Did I want to go to the Heath? No, I did not. Besides, anyone with an eye could see that the Heath, and the East of the Way, would soon be added to the list of Nritrik conquests. It didn’t take a buädhir to know it. And yet there I went, and there found Truvidir Biädtren, and there asked him if he would take me as his apprentice for the next seven years. Maybe it was that no other buädhir wanted to go to that land that he accepted me, more as a long-awaited son than his apprentice.
The Heath: it wasn’t a large land, not extensive. The bounds could be ridden in just three days. But it was a dry place—the driest on earth: abandoned by Saram who refused it rain; hated by Sauën who glared upon it; even Kelis had deserted it. And why? Because this land had once been in the hold of the Kerdolan, and those Kerdolan had dug deeply into it and had taken away the sacred black flint that grew here in the Mother’s Belly. Aye, well, still there were miners but these treated the Mother with due respect and gave her the equal of what they took. Rich gifts indeed, for this sacred black flint was the Heath’s great wealth. The kings of the Heath used it in trade, their traders taking it north and south via the Way. In return the king of the Heath received precious metals and grain. That grain was needed, for most years the local yield was hardly worth the effort of harvesting it. I found this a precarious way of living.
Five years of my apprenticeship I served in that land, and I learned much. More important than the stories, the glunan, the workings of the three worlds and the Three Divinities, the spirits and the demons, I learned how to make use of said knowledge—that is, I learned how to make charms and spells and divinations. And not those already set in verses (even the law-men know how to use them). No, I learned the principles upon which those very same charms and spells and divinations had been set. By learning this I now could make any charm and cast any spell and divine any question put to me. I was above and beyond the law! How I did feel the exquisite power of being a truvidir.
Aye, well, for all my power the Nritrin came and took what they would. King Puchelt was taken, tortured and killed. We feared for our lives, Truvidir Biädtren and I. We ran. But . . . how could we escape? The Nritrin and their allies were everywhere, and the Heath isn’t a large land to lose oneself in.
Assistant to a law-man, harpist (failed), buädhir, and now soon to qualify as a truvidir—that is, if Markenys can escape the Nritrin. But he hasn’t yet noticed he’s a puppet, nor yet who’s his true master. Next episode, The Puppet Master