Kottir has won the Games, he is now to be the Alsaldic King. But that’s not how Chief Truvidir Markenys had thought it would be on the eve of the Games when Kailen and King Burdamon had arrived at the King’s Hold . . . Read on
Had I been a man who enjoyed a good wager, I’d have put everything I had on Kailen. He came from Banva Go, from Ul Dlida, and he shouldn’t have been there; no others were there who’d had to travel overseas. To me that said Saram had brought him here, and that for a reason. But it turned out that Kailen hadn’t had to travel overseas at all. He had come only from the East Isle, where he’d been staying as a guest with King Burdamon of the Marshes.
Neither I nor Truvidir Isbalen, who received him late that eve of the Games, asked what he’d been doing as a guest of King Burdamon. It would have been far too impolite to ask a potential king such a thing. Yet the fact that he’d been Burdamon’s guest should have alerted us. But lo and alas! perception is too often the gift of retrospection. And at the time we were more concerned about his companion.
Should we allow King Burdamon to contest these Games? Was he a lawful entry? If we refused him, what would he do? We talked long on this without reaching any decision. Uissid Tizarn had said he didn’t want to be disturbed until I went to him with the result of the Games. But we kept hitting rock. I decided this required his involvement.
“He’s the one I can feel, here, in my head.” Uissid Tizarn tapped his head with a pained expression. He sighed. “We cannot refuse him. Whatever his reason for contending, it’ll go the worse for us if we refuse him. He’s under the direction of another, that I do know. But as yet I don’t know who. This Darkness draws a cover . . . But I’d take a strong guess his master is involved in some way with the Nritrin.”
That wasn’t such a difficult conclusion since the Marshes had been subject to the Nritrin since the defeat of King Bragnos. Any King of the Marshes was bound to be under their direction.
“The Nritrin answer to a certain King Ithen,” Uissid Tizarn said. “If this King Ithen is who I think he is, he’s a dangerous enemy, not easily defeated. Let King Burdamon contest, but ensure he doesn’t win. Even if it means killing him.”
“But how . . .?”
“You’ll find a way.”
I’d find a way. Yet it’s not in my nature to do such a thing. I am not devious, not a plotter nor schemer. And so I gave the task over to Truvidir Isbalen. It seemed to suit him better. I didn’t want to know how he would answer Uissid Tizarn’s instruction. But whatever device, he had little time to attend it—the Games began early the next day.
Truvidir Isbalen took no chances. He had King Burdamon removed from the first event, the horse-race. When we returned to the King’s Hold, after the Games, Mistress Maia was tending this giant of a man. But most inconveniently in the circumstances, she was doing so inside the Truvidiren’s House. Well, of course she was: that was where any injured man would be taken. He had broken ribs and a broken leg and wouldn’t be going any place any time soon. I had no need to report this to Uissid Tizarn. Despite his weakened state, he had sensed the man’s frustration and pain.
With King Burdamon out of the way it was no surprise that the first three candidates returning to Isle Ardy were Markiste Isvlenys, Kailen and Kottir. They’d been the favourites to win. As for the sword-fight, when I saw Kailen’s sword I thought ‘Here is the king.’ With such a sword he had to win. It was evil. It was beautiful. I’d heard of such swords, crafted in the east: they were keen for a man’s blood, hungry for slaughter. The wielder did not so much wield but was himself the wielded. Such swords, they say, are the new kingmakers.
As a truvidir, such talk unsettled me, for we truvidiren have always been known as the kingmakers. Yet that talk was wrong. These swords are not kingmakers; they are the kings. With such a weapon in a man’s hand he has indisputable power. And here was Kailen wielding a ‘king’ sword.
So now I knew why Kailen had been in the east, with King Burdamon. And King Burdamon was sporting a similar weapon. The length of an arm—maybe more. A cutting edge each side of the blade. Fixed to the hilt. And here was the thing for it turned a dagger for thrusting into an axe for hacking. Such a sword was divine. It was sublime. And I was not a fighting man, happiest with peace between peoples.
But Kailen, son of King Ferrangu of Ul Dlida, did not win. He and his sword were defeated.
How easy for Kottir, a trader’s son, having served his Four in the Regiment, having learned and perfected the use of the sword, having travelled to so very many places, then to travel to the east, maybe overseas, and have one of these same magnificent ‘king’ swords made for him. They were the latest style. But while Kailen’s sword sparkled with inlaid gold, Kottir’s was styled with elegant simplicity. And Kottir’s sword won.
“People of the Alsaldic Lands,” I addressed those who had come to see the Games, though they were few, and local, “this is Saram’s Son. This is the True Heir. This is the New King. King Kottir.”
Who was the more surprised, he or me? And that amused me. He was stunned. Stunned, like someone who’s just been hit over the head with a heavy club. He kept opening and shutting his mouth. Shaking his head. Shrugging. Laughing. He hugged Kailen, injured but not beyond easy recovery. Kailen hugged Kottir, too. Kailen seemed pleased for the trader’s son. No one could have guessed how it was to be between these two—given another few trikadents.
Kottir has won the Games. He is the True Heir, the New King. Now he can claim Mistress Bregan as his wife . . . if Kailen, and the law, allows it. Next episode, The King Decrees