Thirteen candidates are contesting the Games, each in some way believing himself Saram’s Chosen—why else contest? Four of these candidates have come from no farther than West Alsime Land. Two are of the Alsimuk clans. Ingobo is one . . . Read on
Some say to be born to Bisaplan’s Land is to be favoured by the Divinities, since Saram and Sauën share a house here on our land. Some say to be born to Bisaplan’s Land is to be born already dead, since on this land are many entrances to Uät’s land. But we who cut our fields into Bisaplan’s Land, and tend our herds amongst those same graves, say that to be born to Bisaplan’s Land is to be born to a life of continuous disturbance.
We of Bisaplan’s kin complain not of the numbers attending the King’s Feasts held at the Alsaldic Feast Ground, which also is here on our land,even though the King’s Beer now must be brought to here by a fleet of river-boats along South River whilst once—by the evidence of the stumps outside that isle still known as Ardy’s—the King’s Wife brewed the King’s Beer here. Neither do we complain of the uses made of the House of Saram. For though both attract numbers beyond our counting, yet these King’s Feasts and doings occur but a few days of each year, and the Alsaldic King has always made sure we suffer no losses to stock and grain.
But those who come for the dead in Uät’s Land—by which they mean the old Alsaldic Kings laid here in their graves beneath the great mounds—these are the troublesome ones. They come ever in their twos and threes, and though the Kings Graves are easiest reached from the broad-way, still mostly these seekers arrive on the river.
Bad enough that they use our landings for their boats, and wear away our paths with their feet. Bad enough that they trample through our gardens as if they don’t see them, they not enclosed as are our fields. Bad enough that they come to our holds and, not calling out to see who is there, open our gates—then leave those gates open to allow our dogs and our children free escape. Bad enough that they do such things that scare our women. Bad enough with all of this but then, when we’ve directed them to the grave of their desiring, they light their fires using our fire-wood. They feed their bellies taking our wild-foods. They sleep the night on the graves and have even been known to kill a calf—our calves—for the use of their necromancers.
Bad enough before the Darkness but when that came the numbers of seekers greatly increased, now in such numbers we of Bisaplan’s kin have not seen before. Traipsing over our land, eschewing the river. Causing immeasurable damage.
The truvidiren lit beacons for them, close to the graves. Yet they never asked if they could use our wood. They simply took it. Then when Eldliks Dathan complained at them, they told him to take his complaint to the Alsaldic King. Aye, and he would have—had there been an Alsaldic King. But the truvidiren had killed him. Now we would have to wait for the next one.
With Bisaplan’s Land being so close to the King’s Hold, we were amongst the first to hear of the Games; that by such a means the truvidiren believed the New King would be found.
Why wouldn’t they admit the truth: that no truvidir had offered a candidate; that these Games were their last resort to find the True Heir? To me it was obvious. After all, who now would want to be king? Who but someone with a rattling head would want to be responsible for ridding the land of this Darkness? I could imagine no harder task. And then what if the New King failed in his task? The truvidiren would kill him, too, just like they’d killed King Hudrys.
I expected no one to apply for this most burdensome and odious task. I expected this Darkness to hold forever—blighting our crops, killing our animals, destroying our trees, causing much misery. So many deaths, so much mourning. But with these thoughts there came another—that in such a way was Saram telling me what he would have me do. Saram wanted me, aye, Ingobo, to contest at the Games. He wanted me to be the New King!
If there was anything less to my liking than this, I couldn’t imagine it. What did I know of governing? Who was I but an Alsimuk herder? I could claim no connection with any of the Alsaldic Kings. Nor was I Querkant nor Krisvint. And neither my father nor my grandfather nor any of my uncles had ever put themselves forward to be the eldliks of our little kin-land, much less of our clan. I could find none in my glunan who rated as worthies, not of any kind. My family and kin had never been anything other than herders.
There were almost three triks left before the Games. The truvidiren had given no clue as to their nature but I thought they’d be much like the Games at the Feast of Trees. Of the bow-work and spears I’d do well enough, even if contesting against one of the Regiment. Of strength and balance, too, I had no doubt I could win: I had practiced much and well with my older brothers and uncles and kin. For these events Saram had chosen well when he chose me. But what of the horse-race, what of the sword-play? I had no horse to ride upon, and my family owned none. I had less than three triks to find a suitable beast and to learn to ride it. How was I to do that? And in that same less-than-three-triks I needed to acquire a rapier-sword and learn how to use that as well.
Within each clan a man can expect some help with his needs. As a son of Clan Ulmkem I could turn to others of that clan. It’s a big clan, spread across the Alsaldic Lands: in West Alsime Land, in Bayland, in White Lands, in the land they call the Broken Hand though none now remembers why, in East Isle, in Meksuin’s Land and beyond it. But the Darkness forbade such travel. No one would venture onto the rivers. Demons lurked in and along them, everywhere. I would have to visit those clan-families nearest to the Highlands. But the nearest lay across South River, across whose waters only a fool now would go. Next nearest was worse, being along the Ridge of His Indwelling. To reach those families I would have to cross the Wetlands, threaded through with tiny streams, each now inhabited by the foulest of demons, lurking and waiting and ready to infest any who dared to come close. I feared to go there. I resolved instead to go south. Our clan had families even at West Bounds. If I planned my route well I could reach there without having to cross the biggest of rivers, only the small streams. I knew it would take me a time to get here, and the going wouldn’t be easy in this Darkness. But I told myself I’d time enough.
Huh! I got no farther than Linden Stream that skirts the Highlands. And that had taken me a severely long while.
Queen Yoisea has told us, the young Alsimuk herder Ingobo was amongst the thirteen King’s Candidates contesting the Games. But if he got no farther than Linden Stream, how came he to equip himself as needed, with a horse and a sword? Next episode, Saram’s Intent