As Uissid Tizarn has told Bregan, she must use her Brictish powers to coerce King Burdamon into immediate departure. But as Queen Yoisea says, Bregan is young and inexperienced; she hasn’t yet found the full extent of those powers . . . Read on
“She’s un-practiced,” I said on Bregan’s behalf. “I remember how it was when I was her tender age. I might have known the extent of my tricks but that didn’t mean I knew how to perform them. And I never was sure that they’d work—that’s an assurance that comes with age . . . with the passing of years.”
“Yet,” Uissid Tizarn repeated, “it is Bregan who must be the one. She has only to do it the once and he’ll be gone and no more threat to her.” He turned again to Bregan. “No more threat to you, and through you to King Kottir and the Alsaldic Lands. He is a Nritrik king; he’s not to be trusted. I was going to let him stay till he was healed enough to travel. But not now. Best for everyone that he goes. He’ll take Kailen with him, and I know that you’ll miss him but you know you cannot have him.”
Her face betrayed her horror. “You knew!”
He laughed. “You think because this Darkness has weakened my powers—weakened me worse than you lesser begots with your greater human parts—that I’m not still a man who has lived ten thousand years? You think that in all that time I’ve not watched the ways of women and men? You think I can’t hear in the way you say his name, the look that colours your face, exactly what it is between you? I’ve no need of Brictish powers to tell me that. But he is a mortal, not a Brictan of any degree; he will not live long. And you will.”
As if the rest had not been said, Bregan asked him, agog, “How many years did you say?”
“Ten thousand—give or take a century or two. What Immortal counts beyond the first few thousand? But that’s not why you’ve come here—to hear of my life,” he waved it aside. “Now listen, Bregan, you have to do this. You have to send King Burdamon away. No, don’t panic; it’s easy. All you need do is to send him the thought of his leaving. But you send it not just with your head but with your full body—every part of you. Now. Do it now. Now while you’re here with me. Yoisea, you do it too. That should help her.”
So that’s what we did. I admit to feeling foolish, that I hadn’t thought of it myself, that it took Uissid Tizarn to say it. Just think: we could have saved ourselves all the wheedling and flattering of Truvidir Markenys.
“Is that it?” Bregan asked after a few moments.
“Hold that desire within you, and radiate it,” Uissid Tizarn said. “Repeat it, strong as strong can be, every so often. Keep shooting it at him—like a barrage of arrows. All through this day, and even after he’s gone. We need to be sure he’ll stay gone.”
So that was that. We thanked Uissid Tizarn and left him to his precious solitude and peace.
With her problem’s solution now at hand Bregan again thought of Mistress Maia, and, oh, how she fretted. Her aunt would have missed her by now and would be angry. Or else be worried (which results in the same). She was hurrying me with her across the King’s Hold when . . . was that an ox-cart we heard, splashing through South River? She looked at me in alarm.
“But if that is King Kottir,” I told her, “you should be pleased.”
And, aye, it was Kottir, returning from his travels, using one of the Regiment’s carts because he hadn’t taken his own horse to ride.
But no sooner had he pulled into the King’s Hold than King Burdamon came out of the Truvidiren’s House, in a great rush and hurry to be gone.
“Give me that cart,” he ordered King Kottir—aye, ordered him.
King Kottir looked at him as if to ask just who he thought he was. But then he seemed to remember exactly who (maybe Bregan had helped him there).
“As the Alsaldic King,” King Kottir said, “I have a duty to be generous to my subjects. But are you subject to me? Or to the Nritrik king? If you’re subject to me, then gladly do I give you this cart, and the oxen which pull it.”
“Don’t play with him,” Bregan told Kottir, her own voice full of play. “He’s in a hurry to leave. He must go today.”
I admired her. How quickly she had mastered the skill.
“Aye,” King Burdamon agreed with her. “I have to leave. I have just realised what’s the morrow—the Feast of Slaughter. I must be with my own people for that. Yet how can I travel that distance with this useless leg?”
I wanted to suggest that he left it behind. Oh, the nasty, cruel things I could to it while imagining the rest of his gross-some body attached and suffering the pain and indignity. But I held my tongue, I kept quiet; I played the nice Old Queen.
“Let him have the cart,” Bregan told Kottir, and I could feel what else was passing between them. The air fair-bristled with their unspoken talk.
King Kottir climbed down from the cart’s high seat and, like the congenial host he’d become with the winning of the Games, he smiled. “The cart is yours. But not these oxen—they are too slow. I’ll have a pair of trained horses hitched into harness. You’ll travel so much quicker with horses.”
It was a kind offer yet, in too much of a hurry, King Burdamon refused it. Instead, he was up on that seat and turning the cart around, forgetting all about young Kailen. It was as well that Kailen saw him there. And seeing us, too, standing beside that cart he quickly realised all was not well.
With his easy loping-run he was beside us in a trice. “You’re leaving?” he asked King Burdamon.
“Aye,” King Burdamon said. “I’m leaving. This visit to West Alsime Land has become costly to me. First I lose my favourite horse to a needless accident. Then, with being laid abed so long, I’ve lost my strengthl. Had I not, I’d have killed this—this man.”
Kailen looked genuinely puzzled. He looked from Burdamon to King Kottir and back. “But why? King Kottir, here, is the True Heir: he won fairly. He’s a good man.”
King Burdamon shook his head, but he said no more. With no farewells, not to anyone, he was out of the gate and down the bank—and in his hurry almost straight into South River, but he recovered in time. Even so, with the way he turned those oxen—slowly—the cart had begun to lurch and he had to hold on tight else he’d have been in that vile befouled water—which to my mind is where he belonged. Ah, so perhaps it my thinking that made his turn so precipitous? I did hope so.
As we watched King Burdamon leave I noticed, beside me, that King Kottir had slipped his hand around Bregan’s and, possessively, laced fingers with her. Maybe Kailen didn’t notice, his eyes intent on the retreating back of his former ally. Poor Kailen, unable to understand why he had gone in such a hurry. It was only once Burdamon had disappeared from view that Kailen turned back to Kottir.
“Did you sail across the sea, then?”
“There and back. It was easy,” said King Kottir.
“So, I suppose if I make my way westward—to West River Gate?—I shall find me a boat to take me home. I should go home; I’ve been away for many triks—almost the year. Who knows what’s been happening in Ul Dlida . . .”
With King Burdamon scurrying home that’s one less problem. And it seems Kailen, too, will be leaving soon. Now perhaps everything will go as it ought and King Kottir and Mistress Bregan can be at ease together. But that wouldn’t be a story. Next episode, Zabul of Ul Dlida