King Kottir has returned from over the seas, proving sea-travel again is possible, and giving the cue for Kailen to leave for Banva Go. That pleases Zabul who has accompanied and protected Kailen on his overseas itinerancy . . . Read on
Glory, glory to Lu! At last we were to go home. Though we’d not been away for the ‘almost a year’ as my lord Kailen claimed it. He exaggerated. Yet Saven had been in Sammeste when we crossed the Narrow Sea. Then when the Darkness came we’d been at King Burdamon’s Hold. Trapped, what could we do but to accept his further hospitality?
King Ferrangu’s truvidiren had warned him of some such hazard and, not a man to squander lives, King Ferrangu had asked me to accompany his son on this ill-advised overseas journey. At first it had been an adventure. But not any more. Now, every one of my small, select band desperately wanted to return home, not only those of my men who had wives waiting for them.
These men—my men—did not serve King Ferrangu, nor his son. They served me, only me, and I, in turn, gave my full loyalty to my lord. I do not brag when I say I was lord of one hundred bands of fighting men. And by now I was worried. Those men left behind had been without their lord for far too long. Would they have found another lord to serve in my absence? One hundred bands of fighting men, held together only by their service to me. But what if, in my absence, they’d forgotten they shared loyalty to me and turned instead against each other? I would be very glad to return home. But I feared what I might find.
It had taken all of my youth and most of my viral years to gather these men to me. They, like me, weren’t Dunelt or Burnist. They were Lugiones—Luguish, as the traders of the Alsaldic Lands have always named our people. Lugiones—Luguish: followers of the Immortal Lu. Lu of the High Places: Lugain.
Lugain led my people to Banva Go in the time before kings. According to our stories, we came from the south; according to the Alsalds we’d come from the west. But we came from both for we had brought our boats ashore along the western coast of Banva Go and from there we had travelled inland—seeking what Lugain sought: high places. But there were none in this land of Banva Go, none that satisfied him. That’s why he no longer lived amongst us, in Banva Go. He had returned to the south-land whence we had come, where the land rises into mighty hills that scrape the sky, and descends into deep valleys, the floor of the Earth.
But we still remembered him, we revered and worshiped him. We dedicated every hill-top to his presence, even though he long since had rejected such places, saying they were too low for him. Our wise-men—not the Alsaldic buadhren or truvidiren—they try to make of Lugain what the Alsalds make of their Hero Beli. But Lugain never was like that. Listen to the old stories that the old men tell. Lugain was no Divinity, He was an Immortal. He shone.
When we first encountered the people of Banva Go—Men of the Tombs, Men of the Bellies—they saw us coming from the west with Lugain before us, leading us. They knelt down before us, awed by his glory. They wondered at his coming from the west, when the sun rose in the east, so bright was his light. They thought him a spirit but he was not. He was our leader in the days before kings. But shame on us, he left us here when he returned to the south-lands of our birth.
But none of this has much to say of what happened with young Kailen on his journey overseas to East Isle, to the King of the Marshes.
He had gone there seeking a sword-master. He’d heard from other travellers that several of the eastern kings had sword-masters at their holds, and that these sword-masters could craft a different kind of sword to the ones crafted by the sword-makers of Meksuin’s Land. Meksuin’s Land would have been easier to reach, King Ferrangu argued with young Kailen. But Kailen wanted one of these new swords.
“What makes these new swords so special?” King Ferrangu had asked.
“In part it is the way they’re hilted. They can be used as a battle-axe to chop and slice—”
“To decapitate?” I asked.
“In one easy slice your enemy’s head lies at your feet.”
“An axe will do the same,” King Ferrangu objected.
“Why carry an axe as well as a sword, when one sword will both stab and slice?”
“You say in part,” his father said. “What else is there about these new swords?”
“It is less the way the sword is made, more the way it is crafted,” Kailen said. “These eastern sword-masters trap a spirit inside the sword. I don’t know how it is done but with such a spirit in the sword, that sword seeks out the enemy almost of its own accord. It never fails to draw the blood. Indeed, it needs that blood to feed upon. With such a hungry sword in hand how can a warrior fail in battle? Because the sword seeks blood, it kills the enemy. The warrior need do little more than to wield it.”
“A glorious weapon,” King Ferrangu remarked, unimpressed.
“Let me go to one of these sword-masters. Let me have such a sword, and I shall prove it to you. Then you’ll want every one of Zabul’s men to have one. With such swords his men will be invincible.”
“Already they’re invincible,” King Ferrangu told him. But then he turned to me. “Zabul, what say you to this? Should my boy be allowed such a magical sword? Do you believe what he says?”
“I have heard the same,” I admitted.
“Would you have your men equipped with them?”
“If our enemies have them, then so should we.”
“You have a point,” he agreed. “Well, my son, aye, perhaps you should seek out such a sword-master. But I shall see its worth before I provide Zabul’s men with these . . . fancy weapons. When do you intend to leave?”
Of course, with the impatience of youth, Kailen answered, “Straight away; at once.”
“But no one travels overseas during the trikadent of Belerast,” his father said. “You’ll have to wait.”
“Sammeste, then. I’ll make arrangements with a boat-master. I’ll leave on the first day of Sammeste’s Genet.”
So off went young Kailen to make the arrangements for a sea-crossing. At that time only Kailen and his young friend Kimbit were going. But before the first day of Sammeste’s Genet came around, King Ferrangu’s truvid had predicted difficulties in travelling. He’d said, “A troublesome Dark One seeks to embrace Bright Saven. Her light will be extinguished. We shall be as blind men in this world.”
Had King Ferrangu been born of a Dunelt mother he might have taken more notice. But his mother was of my own people; she was Luguish. So King Ferrangu, on hearing his truvidir’s prediction, turned to his wise-man Dekar, and asked him about this time of Darkness: Would it be safe for his son Kailen to travel? Dekar told him aye, it would be safe, that Lugain would guide the boy through the blackest of nights.
Still, King Ferrangu was unsure of what to do. Should he allow young Kailen to travel to the east as he had planned? Or should he hold him back? If he held back his young son you can be sure young Kailen would cause some kind of trouble. It’s in the nature of such young men who’ve no or little demand upon them to look for fights. It keeps them occupied and makes use of their virility. And so he allowed Kailen to travel, as he had planned, but he asked that I go with him to protect him.
I welcomed this journey, not realising how long I would be away. I, as much as Kailen, wanted to know more about these swords. I was curious, and I wanted to meet one of these sword-masters.
But now, instead of just Kailen and his young friend Kimbit, there were thirteen men to ferry across the Narrow Sea. New arrangements had to be made. But then, before we left, Kimbit decided against the journey. In truth he’d no choice, for the young woman he’d been visiting had prematurely gained herself swollen belly and her father was insistent they wed straight away, without delay. Thus Kimbit withdrew from our overseas adventure, leaving just Kailen, myself and ten of my men.
The first stage of our journey from Ul Dlida to East Isle in Albinnys took us to the small island of Liënershi. There we were guests of Lord Kezir, its governor, who welcomed us warmly for, though Liënershi was still part of the Alsaldic Lands, its people mostly were Lugiones like our own.
From Liënershi we sailed to Du Dlida where, again, we stayed with the governor—Lord Nebalys of Clan Bukplugn. It didn’t take us long, there, to find another boat-master. We were on our way again within three days, this time to the Drummings of the White Lands. I had no liking for that land, although to be fair all I saw was the river’s gate that provided our harbour. There we again found a boat-master willing to take us. We left on that same tide, gaining as far as the Point of the Broken Hand. From there another boat, again leaving on the next tide, took us all the way to the Water of Waters.
We had thought then it would be a simple matter of finding a boat-man to ferry us from there to King Burdamon’s Hold—for Kailen had been told this king had a sword-master amongst his men. Yet to reach that hold we had first to return to the sea. Then to journey up a river through extensive marshes. I remember that most clearly. Between the heat of the day and the dampness of the air and the plague of biting flies forever sucking at my blood, that short journey up-river was the most unpleasant experience of our adventure so far.
King Burdamon’s Hold was set close to these noxious marshes, but on higher land. Behind his hold the land rose higher still, though not so high as to be reckoned a Lu’s Place. It seemed to me a barbarous land. The people here spoke some other speech though they said it was Alsaldic. I’d say, rather, it was Nritrik. Kailen, young that he was, soon learned to speak it, but I did not. Though the longer we remained there the keener grew my comprehension.
The boat-master had his boat pull up beside a well-made, high-set wharf. I looked up at it, having seen the ladder set there, and suddenly was glad we’d not brought our horses. From that wharf a raised walk-way led to King Burdamon’s log-fenced hold. I said to Kailen, “I see Kelis tries to claim this land. It is often flooded.”
He laughed. “As long as Kelis leaves it alone while we are here, I don’t much care.”
I don’t know why I should have remarked upon it. What had I expected? King Burdamon had been King of the Marshes long before his most recent conquests had made him King of East Isle.
Kailen, Zabul and his men have arrived at King Burdamon’s Hold on their quest for this reputed magical sword. But there’s more than a sword awaiting them there. Next episode, The Light of the World