Bregan has been named as the true heir to her aunt, Mistress Maia, the present King’s Wife, which requires her to travel to the King’s Hold on the Highlands of the Sun, despite the blackness spread by the foul wings of Draksen. And when, at the King’s Hold, she meets the old queen . . . Read on
They don’t believe me, they don’t, when I say I’ve been the Alsaldic Queen to twenty kings. But I have, I speak true. Uissid Tizarn knows, but then Uissid Tizarn prefers I keep quiet about it. He knows it’s true because he was there when I was chosen to be Alsaldic Queen to King Paolyn, the tenth Alsaldic King. As with all Alsaldic Queens I was chosen for my beauty. Chosen, and given to the king. That’s how they say it, the truvidiren: to be given to the king.
But while before me a new queen must be chosen every fourth year at the Feast of Trees—so fast did their beauty fade—I have remained.
I chuckle—not maliciously, never maliciously, not me—at how many of those beautiful young things before me believed they were to bed with the king. But, ha, no. No, never, never, never. The king has a wife for that (but not the King’s Wife). No, as the King’s Wife is there solely for the brewing, so the Alsaldic Queen is there solely for the showing. Why else must she be so beautiful.
She has to have wheaten, golden or copper hair. No truvidiren would consider a young woman with hair of earthy-browns or raven-black That speaks too loudly of the Krediche and the Eskin, and they never could sit beside our king—not even if the king were previously a Provincial Lord. Some bemoan that ruling saying, then, that never can an Alsimuk woman sit beside him either, especially not one from the White Lands or the Broken Hand. But I say that’s not so, for these days copper and golden hair is often seen in those lands—though while I held my beauty no new Queen would ever be chosen.
She is to have green eyes—by preference. How many green-eyed women are seen? It is rare, and yet I have them. But the truvidiren will allow blue eyes too. Any light colour, but never brown.
She needs be both small and plump. The king doesn’t want a queen whose head tops his when walking and sitting. No—no, no, no, that wouldn’t do, particularly since kings from the Provinces can be . . . shall we say, somewhat short. And so the Alsaldic Queen needs be even shorter, thus ensuring she’ll always be shorter than him. And plump. But does that need saying? If her bones protrude then she’s drawn and scrawny and never a beauty.
I was everything the truvidiren required of an Alsaldic Queen. Moreover, I was born to one of the very, very, very best Alsaldic families—our ancestral glunan reached through to King Meksuin of the Three Holds.
The truvidiren of Meksuin’s Land had already chosen me at the Feast of Grounding. But that’s only the first choosing; it didn’t follow that I’d be Queen. I had first to travel the very long way to West Alsime Land, there to be chosen again, now at the Feast of Trees. That’s when Uissid Tizarn first saw me. Of course, he knew at once what I was though he didn’t know who.
Uissid Tizarn is one of our breed, though I ought to say was one of our breed, for alas for him, he is no more. In all those years I knew him, never did he admit to me that he was an Immortal, a begetter of our Brictish breed. Moreover, never did my father mention him when he talked of the Tuädik Uissids. And who was my father? My father was no woodland daen. No—no, no, no, he never was that. Neither was he an Immortal—for had he been that, then I would have been even more beautiful, and wouldn’t now be in this rapid deterioration.
It was my father told me of we Brictans—indeed, who else could tell me. He told me of the races: Flame (which is Uissid Tizarn), Gold and Crystal, and Silver (which is me, my father and his Immortal source—proof that these remain constant through the glunan, except when they cross-breed). He told me that while Immortals live forever in this world (though they can be killed yet they don’t stay dead) we Brictans—children of the Immortals down to their seventh glunan—are by nature part-mortal. And it’s that mortal part that eventually causes our death. Otherwise, like our immortal progenitors, we’d live for ever. He told me of how with each glunan our powers are halved. My father was of the fourth glunan from our immortal progenitor (Amblushe by name); I am of Amblushe’s fifth glunan.
It’s no lie when I say I have sat as the Alsaldic Queen to twenty Alsaldic Kings. And in my days I’ve seen many a thing.
I have seen—how many? But I do not know, I’ve never counted them—counting is for others, not for me. But I’ve seen a good number of King’s Wives, as the women who brew the King’s Beer are known. I’ve watched as each brew-wife ages, knowing her days soon will be over. I’ve watched as they’ve turned to their brothers—occasionally, through want, to their sisters—to take from him a daughter, a niece to train up to their craft and be the new King’s Wife.
All have been of our Brictish breed. Though until Mistress Bregan all have been so far from their source as to have barely a glow about them. Oh, but when I saw Bregan . . . I watched her walk across the King’s Hold and I knew at once. Here was one closer to her Immortal source than my paltry five glunan. Even in the Darkness of Draksen her light shone forth. She was almost the equal of Sauën.
But why could I, alone, see this? I knew if Uissid Tizarn were to see her then he’d know her at once. But Uissid Tizarn was ailing—had been ailing since Draksen’s Darkness. He kept himself from us. The gossips said he slept in the King’s Granary which I thought unlikely. A granary is no place to sleep. But I don’t know where he kept himself hidden, only that he wasn’t again seen till the dragon, defeated by our new king, departed.
I should have known before ever she arrived that young Bregan was different, for Truvidir Isbalen had gone to fetch her—and I’ve never known that to happen. When I asked Mistress Maia of it she said it was because of Draksen. I asked her why Goenys hadn’t gone instead. She used Goenys for all her other errands, why not to fetch this, her niece? Was Goenys not to be trusted with young Bregan? Rather I’d say it was Truvidir Isbalen who wasn’t to be trusted with such a pretty young thing. I told Mistress Maia this; she didn’t like it. Yet I spoke it only as I saw it.
Young Bregan soon found me—I made sure of that.
By then I was beginning to age and to weaken. That didn’t please me. Had my father not told me I might have thought it Draksen’s doing. But no, I’d always known it would come. Same as I’d always known—because my father had told me—that once the aging started it wouldn’t be long before Old Mother Death twitched her finger at me. Well, she hasn’t yet called me though she has laid her hands on me and slowed me some.
So, once Truvidir Isbalen had fetched young Bregan here, and I had seen her walking about the King’s Hold—seen her light, how bright—then I grabbed my staff to help me walk and out I went. I intended a good long talk with her. I had a query regarding her glunan.
Despite the Darkness, Bregan has arrived at the King’s Hold ready to gain her inheritance: to train to be the next King’s Wife. But there’s something niggling the old queen; it seems Yoisea isn’t inclined to let the matter of Bregan’s Brictish light lie. Next episode, A Matter Of Source.