Uissid Tizarn has granted permission for King Kottir and Mistress Bregan to wed and has even arranged it so everything neatly accords with Alsaldic Law. But he is concerned about Bregan’s Brictish source . . . Read on
“It wasn’t Kastea,” Bregan said. “But neither was it my father Palys, though he’s the only father I’ve ever known. Queen Yoisea believes I was begot on my mother by a woodland daen.”
“Your mother is a Baylander?” Uissid Tizarn asked with sneered disapproval. “But your father first: what do we know of him? That he’s an Immortal, and he wasn’t me. You are Silver, see; while I, like your Kottir, am Flame. So, we have another Immortal in this land? A Silver Fold. But he wasn’t a daen; these daen are Brictans of lesser degrees.
“King Kottir, you might care to look into this. Those Baylanders talk much of the woodland daen. Have they Brictans hiding out in their wilds? If so, I advise caution. Alone, they’re not usually dangerous. But have they now an Immortal amongst them? Yet I’ve felt no obvious presence there except . . . before Draksen put an end to it I did feel the stirrings of an Immortal some place in the east. But I’d thought it from beyond Bayland. But if there’s an Immortal that close . . . no, this doesn’t bode well.”
“King Ithen of the Nritrin?” I suggested. I guessed him an Immortal since he was a king and I’d heard he had the light.
“Ithen?” Uissid Tizarn scorned and launched into a rant. “Never was an Immortal by such a name. Ithen? Why take the Eater’s name; what does he hide? Is he one of we Uissids? But which one? Has one turned against us? Not Huath, he still guides the Uestin, and I’ve heard only good talk of him. Not Ulidod either, nor Yesip. For one went east and the other south. It could be Taulunt. Taulunt was Uissid for Dal Nertros, and it’s Dal Nertros which has spawned the Nritrin. Or is it one of the Three? Well, it isn’t me! Yewlen or Gwemo, then? Yewlen! It must be Yewlen. Yewlen trained the horse-masters; he was a warrior even then. Aye, Yewlen, it could be. But shhh,” he belatedly looked about him. “Did you not tell me that King Burdamon shares this house? He serves the Nritrin; he’s King Ithen’s toy.
“My dear King Kottir,” Uissid Tizarn resumed in calmer tones. “I fear your reign will not be so peaceful. Beset with troubles—with battles. There will be war. It will not be nice for any of us. Ask Truvidir Markenys here, he has seen what the Nritrin can do. It is not pleasant. And now I see, it can’t be avoided. So many things now fall into place and begin to make sense. Oh how I welcome you, King Kottir, Brictan of the third degree. This land needs you if it’s to survive another thousand years—Can you fight an Immortal?”
“Do you refer to Draksen?” King Kottir asked.
“You’ve already fought him and won,” Uissid Tizarn said, dismissing the matter. “No, I ask again, can you fight an Immortal, one shaped like a man?”
“I prefer not to fight,” King Kottir answered him.
“Huh, so you might. But if it comes to it, can you fight one?”
“The Alsaldic King has the Regiment at his command.”
“And not a Brictan amongst them unless he’s too far from source. I am serious, King Kottir, can you fight an Immortal?”
“If it’s needed, I suppose that I can,” he answered, now looking worried.
“This Immortal of the Nritrin—you know the Nritrin already have East Isle in their hold?” Uissid Tizarn asked, then answered himself, “But of course. These Nritrin rule over the Gousich. And the Gousich and the White Lands—the Broken Hand too—who can tell them apart, all but one with their weddings and alliances.
“Oh,” Uissid Tizarn let out a plaintive groan, “but I need to know more. There were reports before the Darkness but . . . But, no, there are other things that need discussing, and that while the Darkness lasts. It will go, this Darkness, it won’t last forever. And isn’t that a mixed blessing. For while it’s above us my powers wane and have drained, almost to nothing, so I’m almost no help to you. Yet the same too has affected the enemy. No, once Draksen is gone and my powers returned . . .but, alas, so then will the enemy’s strength return. I advise you, King Kottir, to prepare all that you can now, while this Darkness holds.
“And you do realise, now, that Draksen isn’t the dragon that you imagined him,” Uissid Tizarn said, and turned a look to me. “Poor Truvidir Markenys here, even though I’ve tried to tell him, he still believes this Darkness is caused by the dragon’s wings. But tell me, Kottir, if you had had to defeat a dragon—as you must have thought you had—how would you have done it?”
His words seemed to take an age to filter through to me, as if I’d been sleeping and only then woke, though I swear I’d heard every word spoken.But exactly what was Uissid Tizarn now saying? That the Darkness wasn’t caused by the dragon’s wings? But of course it was! We truvidiren had spent days—decans—discussing it. The dragon was one of the Mother’s First Borns, begotten by the Fomori Dragon, even before Saram. What Draksen wanted we truvidiren admitted we did not know, though we thought it likely that he was after coupling with Sauën. We didn’t believe he intended us harm—other than depriving us of Sauën’s light.
But King Kottir had been asked a question, and now he answered it. “I had thought the dragon Draksen a pathetic coward for he does not confront us directly. Instead he attacks incidentally through his wearying of the Lady Sauën.”
Aye, much as we truvidiren had agreed! But I do admit that, Chief Truvidir though I was (and still am), I understood little of the rest of their talk—as far beyond me as was Draksen in the sky above us. I repeat only the words that I heard.
“By attacking the Lady he draws us out,” King Kottir said. “He expects something of us, but what is it? There he is, up in the sky, and unless Saram can be persuaded to lend us his horses we cannot reach him. Doubtless the arrows shot at him have been many, yet to no effect. So now he believes he has us beaten. Yet he has not. As I have said, he’s a coward, and cowards are easily scared away.”
“And how would you have scared him?” Uissid Tizarn asked.
“By the same means as I intend still to do.”
“So you see the need, that it still exists?” Uissid Tizarn asked King Kottir, and grunted (though it’s impossible to know what that meant).
“The people have to see it to believe it,” King Kottir quoted my own words from the Games Grand Finale.
“Indeed, indeed. Oh, how I do like our New King,” Uissid Tizarn enthused. “Go on, so what will you do?”
“I am not going to do anything. This needs be done by everyone—every man, woman and child in this land.”
“Then you’d best arrange it soon,” Uissid Tizarn said. “Else he’ll be away and you’ll lose the chance.”
“I thought to have it done at the Feast of the Long Night,” King Kottir said. “That should give the law-men time to spread the word and everyone organised. I thought if everyone makes an all-mighty din—shouting and banging and rattling, the way they do to scare off the spirits on the eve of the Feast of Trees—then Draksen would be so surprised by it and fear we have some new, huge, all-mighty, weapon and take flight and leave us alone.”
Uissid Tizarn nodded. “That sounds a good plan. But I fear you’ll be too late if you leave it so long. He’s been with us now for several triks . . .”
“Nearly five,” I put in, in an attempt to contribute something—anything—to this talk.
“He won’t stay much longer,” Uissid Tizarn said.
“There’s the Feast of Slaughter, but that’s not enough time,”King Kottir amended.
“Oh but it is,” said Uissid Tizarn. “The law-men can ride.”
“But law-men don’t usually ride,” I said. “Many have no horses and neither the skills.”
“Truvidir Markenys,” Uissid Tizarn turned on me, “had I known how awkward you would be without my influence to keep you where I want you, I would never have chosen you for the Chief Truvidir. Let the markan ride out with the word: does it matter who takes it? They can take it today.”
“But it is already night: no men rides at night, not in this Darkness,” I said.
Uissid Tizarn laughed. King Kottir too. I wondered now what I’d said to cause such amusement.
“There are commanders this night at your feast?” asked Uissid Tizarn. “So tell them that word must be taken to all parts of the land: On the eve—it ought be the eve? Aye, on the eve of the Feast of Slaughter everyone, no matter who—be they truvidiren, buadhren, law-men, nobles, kings, lords and their wives and their children—all are to make the most deafening noise they ever have made. You can tell them why: To scare away this dragon Draksen.” He smiled then—indeed more of a grin. “I do like this plan. Such a shame it’s not really needed. He’s already going, you do realise this. He’s been slipping away, slowly, these past several decans. If you look, in the morning, to the east, you’ll see Sauën rising just as she should.”
“You will see her bleeding,” I said. “From the bites Draksen is taking from her. He’s already eaten up Palamon.”
“Hmm? But that is strange,” Uissid Tizarn said. “For when I went out for a walk, only last night—”
“You walked? But you’re too weak to walk, especially in this Dark.” I was horrified. Shocked.
“I use a staff. And so I shan’t be seen stumbling around with it, I go out at night. I go for walks, though I admit I don’t go far. Death and decay everywhere, it upsets me so, and makes me feel ill. But last night while I walked I thought to look up. And, lo, who do you think I saw? Aye, Palamon. He hasn’t been eaten—no more than he ought to be this close to the Feast of Slaughter. People don’t look up any more, so they don’t see him there.”
What could I say? That I didn’t believe him? But he already knew that. And all this ‘good news, bad news’, it was hurting my head. Moreover, I could feel the anger rising. Aye, anger. But why, I didn’t know, couldn’t say.
“Truvidir Markenys,” he then said to me, “you have a message to take to the commanders of the Regiment while they’re here at the feast. So go! These two bright things can find their own way back to the feast. And remember the things I’ve said. You seem to be other than yourself tonight. Are you well?”
Well? Well? I’d give him bloody well, talking mountains of rubble. And I was expected to understand it? Huh.
Alas, our feelings go out to Chief Truvidir Markenys, trying to understand matter way beyond his comprehension, and Uissid Tizarn mocking instead of explaining. But, upshot: Draksen the would-be dragon soon will be gone—leaving the Empire’s Asaric enemy again as strong as Tizarn. So, how does one kill an Immortal? Next episode, Tangents and Triangles