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. But first there are more pressing matters for him to attend . . . Read on
We processed back to the King’s Hold. There was to be a feast, the first feast given by the New King. Usually this was held on the night of the installation but that wasn’t to happen yet. Uissid Tizarn wanted it to be set at the Feast of the Long Night, it would be more appropriate then. But he did agree, there must still be a King’s First Feast, with or without the installation.
It is said that all who want to come to this First Feast may come. But usually the feast is attended only by the lords and the kings, those who consider it important to be seen by the New King, and by the men of the noble families with their unwed sons and daughters. Many a wedding arrangement is made at this feast. But the Darkness prevented all but the few determined from attending. Indeed, King Kottir’s First Feast was attended only by the prime nobles of West Alsime Land, of Querkslunt, of Bayland, of Krakhet and the Drummings of the White Lands, those who had the easiest travel. To my surprise, there were also a smattering of nobles from more distant lands and provinces: from Ani Cobi and Anyo Cobi by West River Gate; from Cobi Go, Anu Ce, Eli Emiso and Un Dli, the southern provinces of North Eskin Land; even from the provinces of Taca Riori—at least from Suda Du—and from Du Dlida. But the candidates’ families were poorly represented. As for clan chiefs, only those living locally arrived: Querkant and Krisvint and the West Alisime branch of Clan Bukplugn. We expected more would attend when the feast was repeated at the time of the King’s Installation
Even so, as a King’s First Feast this was the noisiest I ever had known. Laughter. Cheering. Singing and dancing. Drinking. And drinking. And drinking. But not at the first. At first the musicians had played, and the singers sang, and it was as it always had been for these feasts. Solemn. But this wasn’t to the New King’s liking.
The singers hadn’t even performed one song through to the end when King Kottir went over to where Truvidir Isbalen had arranged the musicians and singers and called out: “Hie! Hie! Hie!” The musicians and singers, unused to taking direction from any but either the Chief Truvidir—myself—or the King’s Truvidir, continued performing.
King Kottir wildly waved his arms, as if trying to attract the attention of distant men, and called out again: “Hie! Hie! Hie! Stop it. Please do stop it!” Which finally they did, but not without first a cautious glance to Truvidir Isbalen, who nodded agreement.
“Please,” our New King said, “this feast is a celebration, is it not? Why then do you play such morose music? Did I not finish third in the horse-race today? Did I not survive a battle of swords against two others, each determined to have my blood? Did I not fire arrows into thirteen—aye, thirteen—blood-filled bladders that were so cleverly hidden beneath the covering skins that they could only be glimpsed through the tiniest of slits? Did I not put out the eye of the Old King, thus slaying him, as well of the make-shift dragon? Did Chief Truvidir Markenys not declare me the Thirty-First Alsaldic King? Why then must we listen to this music? The Old King’s funeral isn’t until the morrow. Tonight we celebrate the finding of a New King. The True Heir. Saram’s Son. Me!
“Musicians,” he said, “play music to make us smile. Play music to fill us with pleasure. Play music to make us happy. Do we not have reason to be happy? And you, singers, do you not know the songs the people sing? Must you always sing such long and complicated stories? Sing something we can all sing along with—even if it’s only the Regiment’s song. I command it.”
Again, the musicians and singers looked over to where Truvidir Isbalen stood—too close to Mistress Maia in my opinion. Truvidir Isbalen nodded. Well might he do that, but I wasn’t about to let this go unchallenged.
“King Kottir,” I addressed him with due formality. “The music played by the harpists, the drummers and pipers, is the music that’s played for the King’s First Feast. The song the singers sing is that required for this First Feast.”
King Kottir looked at me and I could see he was giving my words some consideration. He nodded, then said, “Does my reign as the Thirty-First Alsaldic King begin as of today, when I ‘slew’ the dragon and you declared me King? Or does it begin at the Feast of the Long Night, with the Rites of Installation?”
“It begins straight away,” I told him, knowing full well what he then would say and unable to steer him away from it.
“Then as the Alsaldic King I issue this, my first decree—is it a decree, isn’t it, Truvidir Isbalen? Or is it an edict? Whatever it is, I issue it—I proclaim it—I announce it! As of today—and from this day forthwith—at the King’s First Feast the musicians will play happy music, and the singers sing songs that we all know. This is a happy occasion; we should be laughing, not feeling so glum we’d rather jump in the river and drown.”
His speech called forth many cheers of agreement, and many clapped. What was I to do?
“This is a new law,” King Kottir said. And at least there I could stop him.
“New laws can be pronounced only by the Chief Truvidir—after he has set them in verse.”
“Then set this one in verse,” he said, his speech slow and measured as if in warning to me. “And then you may pronounce it.”
I shook my head. “I cannot. It’s not quite as simple as that. All new laws must be issued by Uissid Tizarn.”
“Hmm,” he said; “I’ve heard mention of this Uissid Tizarn. I don’t know who or what he is, but I am the King, he is not.” He turned from me, as if dismissing both me and Uissid Tizarn. He commanded the musicians to play on.
But then, while the musicians and singers huddled together, no doubt deciding what music to play and which songs to sing, King Kottir told them no, don’t play just yet. He had something more he wanted to say.
“While I am issuing decrees . . . or are they edicts? . . . I must issue this one—and I doubt your Uissid Tizarn will object. The grain in the King’s Granaries? I was told by Mistress Bregan that there is enough grain in these granaries, sited as they are throughout the Alsaldic Lands, to feed all the families within one day’s boat-travel for three whole trikadents. And even after that there will still be enough for each family to sow seed-grain in the usual way. I asked, if this is so then why do the families starve? I was told, because only the king and the King’s Truvidir can grant the giving of these King’s Takes. This is my second decree: Word is to be sent to every King’s Hold in the land, and from thence to the families in their domain that this grain be doled to those families. Does this pronouncement also have to be approved by your Uissid Tizarn?”
How dared I say aye? And yet aye, it should have been. I shook my head, not wanting to put my voice to it.
“Then let it be,” King Kottir said. “I will not have the people dying when there is food for them.”
“Three triks,” I said, finding here a way to object: “Kassis, Daviste and Ulquiste. Even if Draksen is defeated and flees, that still leaves another six trikadents before the seed-grain can yield a harvest.”
“I have thought of that,” he answered me. “Two more King’s Decrees. The men of the Regiment are to become hunters. The wilds and Freelands are full of deer. No one dares hunt them, they’re afraid of the Dark. But these deer are there, I know for I’ve seen them. They find food, they eat the trees’ bark. The Men of the Regiment will hunt them and kill them. They will butcher them and smoke them. Once the meat has been treated it will be distributed to all the families. As with the grain, it can be collected from the King’s Holds. Truvidir Isbalen will ensure all the law-men know of this and that the meat is fairly doled. And though I have said they’ll hunt deer, there are also wild cattle, bear and boar in the wilds and the Freelands—especially the boar and the sow for they find food hidden beneath the earth.”
King Kottir turned then to Truvidir Isbalen, already making him the new King’s Truvidir, which was as Isbalen had hoped and schemed. “This is my command: see that it’s done.”
And Truvidir Isbalen? He meekly answered, “Aye.”
But King Kottir wasn’t yet done with issuing edicts. Amongst those still to come was one that would turn the Alsaldic Laws upside down and, ultimately, cause the fall of the Alsaldic Empire. Next episode, The Knotted Question of Wedding