All Brictans exude some measure of light. The closer to their Immortal source, the stronger and brighter the light. So when Bregan arrives at the King’s Hold to train as the next King’s Wife Queen Yoisea notes an irregularity here . . . one she’s not inclined to let lie . . . Read on
I soon noticed how Bregan went to the spring to fetch sweet water, although Mistress Maia had always said that the water in that little stream of hers was as sweet as any spring. So why did Bregan go up to the spring when there wasn’t a need? I suppose because she didn’t trust to her aunt’s saying: no river water was fit to drink during the Darkness. Anyway, I hauled myself up to that spring, and sat myself down beside it. I had to sit, the walk had exhausted me. And there I sat, like a beacon in the darkness for any Brictan who cared to see me. Yet even then I had to call her.
She could have ignored me, closer in glunan to her Immortal progenitor. But, no, out she came from Mistress Maia’s house, two water-flasks in her pretty young hands—and no sooner had she left than I saw Truvidir Isbalen crossing the Hold to visit the same.
Did the fool really believe that no one noticed him in his many visits to Mistress Maia? But then, what Alsaldic Law is there to forbid it. No, rightly or wrongly—and I say wrongly—the King’s Wives have never been subject to Alsaldic Law. But even so . . .
But then, of course, there’s also the question of why Truvidir Isbalen still resided at the King’s Hold. He was no longer the King’s Truvidir. The king he’d promoted—himself along with him—had been declared a failure, and killed. Now, at the very same time that Truvidir Isbalen was playing up to Mistress Maia, the law-men were taking the Old King’s body to every family-holding in West Alsime Land. They did that when a king had to be killed; done to allow his disappointed subjects to hurl stones and abuse at him. So now Truvidir Isbalen ought to be gone, too. Yet here he was, still at the King’s Hold. As I could see, he’d no need to be here—he had no right. And if I’d been him I’d have gone far away—far, far, far away from the Alsaldic Lands. Consider it: the shame of being he who had offered up that failure of a king! I’d even wondered if it was by King Hudrys’s doing that I now was so rapidly aging—I’d been young and beautiful right up till the coming of the dragon Draksen.
But be all that as it may, I called Bregan to me, and Bregan came.
It didn’t take her half as long as it had taken me to reach the spring. She came to me with smiles. She’d seen my light. I mistakenly thought by her seeing my light that she must already know about we Brictans. Apparently not. Indeed, she knew nothing. I had to instruct her, to tell her the things my father had told me. She laughed—several times: “Aye: I can do that.” “Can I only do that because I’m a Brictan?” “Are others not like us?” Then together we asked about her Brictish progenitor. She was certain it wasn’t her mother since her mother had no light. Yet even her father had only a faint glimmering—alike to his sister, Mistress Maia.
“Probably a woodland daen,” I told her.
She’d heard of them, of course she had, her mother was a Baylander. It’s only amongst the Baylanders and other East Alsimuk that the daen are mentioned—those and the people of East Isle. But, then, they too were East Alsimuk, once upon a time.
She asked me if I’d been begotten by a woodland daen as well. I told her no. That’s when I told her of the Immortals and the glunan and being closer or farther from the source.
“I’ve lived seven hundred years and soon now must die. But you,” I said, “you will live at least twice as long as me. Maybe longer.”
“A thousand years? More?” she asked. How easily excited.
“Maybe bigger numbers than I know,” I said. “My father has already lived for as long as that and still shows no sign of aging.” Not that I see him often. Sometimes he comes to West Alsime Land to trade. But he says so much has changed since he first set foot in this land that it upsets him too much to come here.
Bregan stayed away from me after that, though only for a few days. When I saw her again I asked her why she’d stayed away. She said she’d had things to think of. She was worried, she said. She couldn’t decide whether to tell Mistress Maia of her being a Brictan. It troubled her. Maia had chosen her as her true heir because she was supposed to be Maia’s brother’s daughter. And now she knew she was not.
“What do you expect will happen if you tell her?” I asked.
She shrugged. She didn’t know enough of being a King’s Wife, nor enough of Mistress Maia to answer that.
“And what if you don’t tell her?” I asked.
Again she shrugged. “I guess someone else will.”
“You think then that there will be trouble for you?”
There came a third shrug. And a nod.
She said, “I don’t want to be sent back to my family. I’ve known ever since my father—my father Palys—told me I was to come here to be the King’s Wife that this is what the Mothers want for me. It wouldn’t do to be sent home again.” Then suddenly she jumped up in great alarm. “They’d have to find a husband for me. That wouldn’t do!”
I laughed at her. “|But why ever not?”
“My father Palys has always said ‘at least we don’t have to find her a husband’. He wouldn’t be pleased if I returned.”
“But you’re not your aunt’s true heir,” I reminded her.
She pulled a face.
“Difficult, isn’t it,” I said.
There followed some moments of quiet while she was thinking, and screening her thoughts from me—she’d learned that quick enough. Then she looked up, even more alarmed. “Will they do to me what they do to a king when he’s not the true heir?”
“I’ve never known it to happen,” I said. But then I had to tell her, “I’ve never known a King’s Wife who isn’t a true heir.”
“I have to tell Aunt Maia the truth,” she said. But I could see how reluctant she was.
“Would you prefer that I tell her?” I asked.
“She’ll call me an interfering old woman,” I said, at which Bregan laughed.
“It has to be sorted,” she said with resolve.
“Mmm,” I said. On that I agreed. And wouldn’t that upset Mistress Maia!
The resolve has been set: Mistress Maia must be told the truth of young Bregan. But what of Mistress Maia’s plans? She has the beer to brew for the New King’s Feast; she needs her apprentice. Next episode, The Bearer of Tales