The new king, King Kottir, has issued such edicts intended to stave off the starvation of his people. He has also declared his intent—fully against Alsaldic Law—to wed Mistress Bregan and to make her his queen. So what will Uissid Tizarn say to all this . . . Read on
“Of course I will see King Kottir,” Uissid Tizarn said. “Bring him to me tomorrow.”
As Chief Truvidir I dared to defy him: I shook my head.
“That will not do?” he asked.
“Already he’s asking who has the more power in this land, him or you.”
“For now, he does,” Uissid Tizarn said. “But once this Darkness goes it will again be me. Tsk! Fine, so I’ll see him now.”
“I believe he expects to bring Mistress Bregan with him. He wants her as his queen.”
“Is she beautiful?”
He pulled a face. “Pretty doesn’t last, beauty does.”
“She has the light,” I told him though I didn’t know if she was a long-living Brictan like Queen Yoisea. Not being of the Brictish breed, yet having some small part of Brictish blood, I could see no more than a faint glow around those who were full of that breed. Both Mistress Bregan and King Kottir had that glow—but then so did most of the people living in West Alsime Land; as for Banva Go, it was full of them.
“Bring them to me,” he told me. “But make it seem like you’re obeying him, not me. You understand?”
“Which entrance shall I use?” I asked. I didn’t want to bring him through the Truvidiren’s House. We would have to pass through the Truvidiren’s Chamber where King Burdamon, sedated by Mistress Maia, was presently sleeping.
“Use my door,” he allowed. He, like me, wasn’t pleased that King Burdamon had been brought into this house. Yet that’s where those in need of healing always were brought. He had muttered something about ‘enemies beneath the roof’, and how his head hurt because of it.
I returned to the King’s House where the celebrations now were taking a new turn—of drunkenness. Aye well, it was how our New King wanted it.
“I have spoken with Uissid Tizarn as you requested,” I told King Kottir. He still had hold Bregan’s hand, and even when he let go of that he draped a possessive arm about her shoulders, else curled his hand round her waist. I wondered if he really did intend to bed with her that night. As he interpreted the Law, there was no law to say against it. “Uissid Tizarn offers apologies that he cannot attend your feast. Once you have met with him you will understand why. He begs your forgiveness and says that if you will do him the honour of visiting him—and be advised, no other king has ever done that—then he’ll be more than happy to discuss any matters that cause you concern.”
“A pretty speech,” King Kottir remarked. “Did Uissid Tizarn scrape as low across the floor as your words are doing? He agrees to see me, is that it?”
“He would be honoured to receive a visit from the king. No other Alsaldic King has done so.”
That was not the exact truth for King Krisnavn had been a constant visitor of his, and so had King Hegryn. But that wasn’t something I could say to this present king, and certainly not in front of so many people.
I led the way. I noticed how King Kottir still held to Bregan as if afraid of losing her. I noticed how she in return while not actually shaking off his attentions did nothing to encourage him. I sensed some reluctance on her behalf to be with him. But I am not a Brictan to do more than ‘sense’, and then often I’m wrong. Still, I did notice and wonder.
I found the hidden door with no difficulty at all—that was unusual. Maybe Uissid Tizarn still had strength enough to guide me now I was so close. I ushered his guests within.
“You may as well extinguish all those candles and lamps,” Uissid Tizarn said before even a greeting. “These two bring light enough with them to light the land in spite of Draksen. What degree are you?” he asked looking first at King Kottir and then Mistress Bregan.
It was Bregan who answered him. She knew about such things since Queen Yoisea had instructed her. “I am of the second degree. Kottir is of the third. We think. That is if by first degree we speak of the Immortals. And you,” said she in evident awe, “must be one of those very Immortals. I feel honoured to be meeting with you like this. I had not realised . . .”
Uissid Tizarn had smiled all through her little speech, and now he laughed. Indeed, he chortled and chuckled and grinned so wide it sliced through his face.
“Our king is of the third degree.” This seemed to please him inordinately. “Do you know how long you will live—all being well, avoiding nasty accidents and those intent on killing you?”
“Perhaps for as long as three thousand years,” King Kottir said.
I reeled at the very sound of it. Three thousand years? You might have thought that, after serving Uissid Tizarn those past three years, I’d be used to such talk. True I had accepted that Queen Yoisea was now approaching her six hundred and seventieth year—more or less (after so long it must become tiresome counting). But here was our New King and he was to live for three thousand years? I laughed. I couldn’t help it. As long as his reign was not beset with plagues and famines, floods and other disasters, we need look for no other king in all those years. Of course, I’d not live that long so I’d not know if he proved to be a good Alsaldic King.
“And how many of those three thousand years have you yet lived?” Uissid Tizarn asked him, ignoring my bright laughter.
“To date I have seen four and twenty winters,” he answered.
“Was it your mother or your father who gave you the gift?” Uissid Tizarn asked him.
“It wasn’t my father. He’s as ordinary of Truvidir Markenys.”
Huh! Ordinary did he say of me?
“I have the blood from my mother. Please don’t ask me who she was. Nobody knows.”
“Abandoned?” Uissid Tizarn asked.
He shook his head. “She stayed with my father till I’d seven winters-seen, and then she departed. None ever knew who she was nor where she’d come from. My father found her on the shore one day and nursed her back to health, that’s all we know.”
“On the shore you say? Which shore? We are an island here, if a big one; we have many shores.”
“On the shores of Du Dlida.”
“It cannot be,” Uissid Tizarn said. “Four thousand years since have passed, or close enough. Did your mother have a name?”
“Kimmir,” he said.
“So she said.”
“Then it has to be her. And that would explain that mess of black hair on your head. You never came by that from Clan Bukplugn—that is your clan, isn’t it?”
“My mother’s eyes were the darkest brown, almost black. And her hair, a tangled briar of jet-black. Her skin . . .”
“Aye,” Uissid Tizarn interrupted him. “It does sound like her. But I cannot believe it, not after all these years.”
“You knew my mother?” King Kottir asked.
“I’d say rather I knew her mother. So, you are Kimmir’s young son. I am pleased to meet you. I do hope you’ve not learned too many of her family’s ways.”
“Were they not good people?”
“Who can say what is good, what’s bad? And tonight is not the time to talk of . . . of her. Yet, she survived; I cannot believe she survived. Then I wonder if . . . but, no, that’s not possible. No, I would have known before now. And young Mistress Bregan, what of you?”
“You mean who was my mother?”
“You know what I meant. You claim to be a second degree Brictan, and I don’t doubt it for I can see by your light. But do you know how long you’re likely to live?”
She shook her head. “Queen Yoisea told me some, that’s how I know about Kottir. But she didn’t know how long I’ll live. Longer than Kottir, she said.”
“If I said six thousand years, would you believe me?”
“No. That’s too long for anyone to live.”
“Yet I have lived considerably longer,” he said. “Most second degree Brictans live for about six thousand years,” He repeated, and then turned to me.
I had sat on one of his chairs and that without his permission. But there had been nothing else for it. I’d had to stop my spirit from fleeing.
“What a good idea,” he said on seeing me seated. “Please, my visitors, my honoured guests; be seated too. We shouldn’t stand, now should we, not when we have so long ahead of us for standing.
“Chief Truvidir,” he then said, “I want you to make an announcement. There is to be a contest. To find the most beautiful young woman in all the land. This will be held at the Feast of Birds, though I know that’s not one you care to celebrate with any festivities. Those young women who are judged by your truvidiren to be the most beautiful in their part of the land will travel here to the Highlands of the Sun, and here—at the Feast Ground at Isle Ardy, that seems appropriate—they will be judged again. And the most beautiful there will be Queen Bregan. So,” he turned to Bregan, “you had best enter too. Don’t want any to say the contest was fixed.
“It has to be done this way,” he then all but apologised to King Kottir. “It’s the Alsaldic Law. Now,” he said, barely stopping for breath, “Mistress Bregan, I have to ask you which was the immortal source, your mother or your father?”
“Hie! Wait,” King Kottir held out his hands, trying to stop this talk going further. He’d just realised what Uissid Tizarn had said. “You’re agreeing to Bregan becoming my queen?”
“No,” said Uissid Tizarn. “I’m saying your Mistress Bregan should become the Alsaldic Queen. That’s not quite the same thing.”
“But . . . ?”
“Aye,” he told the young king who was jumping about like he’d sat on an ants’ nest. “Sit down, please. Aye, she’s to be your queen. You can be wed at the Feast of Trees—just as soon as she’s declared the queen. Does that please?”
“But we are already wed,” Kottir answered him.
“Because Mistress Bregan is the King’s Wife, aye, I’ve heard that. But when was the ceremony? Eh? No, there has been no ceremony, there have been no rites. Besides, you go taking this young woman to your bed and you know well enough what will happen. Her belly will swell with a begotten child. How then can she be named the Alsaldic Queen?”
“After the decay and destruction wrought upon this land by Draksen, I’d have thought a pregnant queen would have been exactly what the people most need.”
“Aye, King Kottir, I agree. But not until after she’s been named as the Alsaldic Queen. Now, as I was saying . . . Mistress Bregan, which was the immortal source, your mother or your father?”
“This is all too much, too soon, too quick,” Kottir said, interrupting again.
“But you’ve plenty of time to get used to it, you’ll live for three thousand years. Now please, King Kottir, let me speak to young Bregan. It’s important I know which was her immortal source, her mother or her father.”
Uissid Tizarn has had no qualms about granting permission for King Kottir and Mistress Bregan to wed. Brictans of high degree, they have extensive longevity. He has even arranged it so everything neatly accords with Alsaldic Law. But why his concern about Bregan’s Brictish source? Next episode, To Kill An Immortal