Despite King Kailen arrived for the Feast of Trees laden with gifts, the only thing given was a threat to the Alsaldic King’s life. Mistress Maia clearly heard what was said. Not so Chief Truvidir Markenys . . . Read on
At first I thought it was my fault; I should have spoken with King Kailen when he arrived at the King’s Hold—at least to have spoken to him before the feast. How remiss of me, why hadn’t I realised something was wrong when the truvidiren of Banva Go and Liënershi stopped reporting to me. Yet King Kailen had arrived with a train of men all bearing boxes and pots and baskets and parcels all looking as if they were gifts intended for King Kottir. How was I to know? Am I a Brictan to know what’s in another’s head and heart? No, but Queen Bregan was. And so, too, King Kottir. And as for Uissid Tizarn . . . those three had known.
Why had they said nothing to me? Why had they left me to discover King Kailen’s treachery, and that revealed before all the nobles of the land? We could have stopped him: had him killed before the Feast; removed the threat he offered. But no, first I had to listen to his speech, that Ul Dlida would no longer be part of the Alsaldic Lands, that the southern holdings in Banva Go, and that Liënershi and South Eskin Head had all formed a Luguish alliance. Then—then—it took Truvidir Isbalen to tell me of the threat he had made to King Kottir’s life.
As soon as the festivities were over I was straight to Uissid Tizarn with the news.
“The King’s Truvidir tells me that King Kailen told Queen Bregan that he intended to kill King Kottir.”
“I know,” he said, calm as a fly upon butter.
That stopped me. It froze me. I stood, just within his chamber, not knowing what now to say. “How?” I managed to stutter—at which he laughed.
“Four years now you’ve served me,” Uissid Tizarn said, “and still you have to ask me how?”
“If you knew, then why didn’t you tell me?” I was fuming at him.
“I needed someone to be seen surprised by it.”
“The King’s Truvidir was surprised by it,” I said. “Wasn’t that enough?”
“As many of the truvidiren as possible,” he amended.
“I do not understand.”
“You say that rather a lot,” he remarked, but did nothing to explain it to me. “My concern was with those gifts he carried. Who are they for?”
“If you knew of the death threat . . .”
“It’s not that easy,” he waved it aside, then offered to explain.
At last, I thought! But his explanation hardly resembled the one I wanted.
“King Kailen came here because of Queen Bregan, not for King Kottir. If King Kailen had never met with Bregan he would have stayed away, like the eastern kings. He had no call to journey so far just to refuse King Kottir. No, he came to warn Queen Bregan. And that’s all. See . . . yapes, must I always explain things?” He heaved what I can only describe as a disgusted sigh.
“You know a Brictan can get inside another’s head?” he said. “Aye, but there are limitations to this ability. For one, it diminishes with distance, even for me. But more debilitating than this, a head and heart that’s full of anger hides all other thoughts. So, too, a head and heart that’s full of love—and a fiery love exists between our Bregan and King Kailen. Though she tries, there’s no denying it. I’m sure even you had noticed. So, even though Kottir is a Brictan of high degree, he doesn’t yet know what’s occurring behind his own back—for their love hides it.”
And he called that an explanation? It served only to confuse me further. How could he and Bregan and King Kottir know of King Kailen’s intentions when, as he’d just explained it, Kailen’s desires for Bregan and hers for him hid everything?
“In many ways King Kailen and Queen Bregan are one,” Uissid Tizarn answered my question although I’d not voiced it. “What’s in Kailen’s head and heart is felt by Bregan too. But maybe not in a way where she’s able to say, King Kailen is intending to do this or do that.”
And that was supposed to clear my confusion?
“But by digging deeply into Bregan,” he said, “I can find what she cannot.”
“Ah!” Now I was beginning to understand. “King Kailen’s treacherous intentions were only felt by Queen Bregan. While you were able to discern them more . . . clearly. Though not from King Kailen; from Bregan.”
“I suppose you could say it like that. I knew of his—shall we say ‘desire’—to protect Queen Bregan from whatever his dire intent. The rest follows from there. But I shouldn’t need to explain all this to you: I’ve put it in your head. I do wish you’d spend more time in musing—aye, in musing. You spend too much time in looking out when you should be looking in. This isn’t how you used to be, Markenys, but . . . Despite we knew all this, we couldn’t discover who the gifts were for.”
“And have you now discovered it?” I asked. I did hope so, since King Kailen and his men had now left.
“Sometimes answers are easier to come by than we expect. We tend to overlook the obvious.”
I confessed to confusion once again.
“His man, Zabul,” Uissid Tizarn said and smiled.
“Oh! I see. Aye, Zabul has no fierce desire for anyone, so you can dig into his head. Is that it?”
Uissid Tizarn sighed.
“That is it, isn’t it?” I had to ask.
The way he looked at me was so unsettling. I had the feeling he was considering replacing me with another. That worried me, not least for how he’d get rid of me. Would he kill me? He continued to look at me. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled and tickled, shivering my spine.
“That’s better,” he said though with no indication of what. “The gifts are for King Burdamon and his sword-master. That’s where they have gone.”
“And they were allowed to leave? Alive?” I gaped.
Uissid Tizarn laughed at my indignation.
“I will have to replace you,” he said, “if you can’t do better than this. The answers are in your head. Try looking for them.”
“Am I permitted to sit while I do this?” I sat anyway.
After some moments with my head seeming particularly empty I finally began to perceive his plan. Though I wasn’t sure. I still had to ask to be sure.
“King Kailen has become your spy?” I said.
His chuckled with self-satisfaction.
I continued to say my perceptions: “We have no truvidiren in East Isle, now. So we don’t know what’s happening there. And you—pardon my saying—can’t get beyond King Kailen’s desires for Queen Bregan. Yet because of that desire, Bregan and Kailen’s thoughts are like one. Therefore Queen Bregan will know what’s happening, though she won’t know that she knows. You, however, can find it inside her. Am I right?”
“Why do you refuse to use the word ‘love’, Markenys?” he asked instead of confirming what I had said.
“I thought you could get inside my head,” I said smartly.
“I can. But,” he persisted, “I want to hear you say it.”
I told him, “Love is for the Divinities, it isn’t for us. We have desires, we have passions, we have lust. We have concern, we have caring. We have affection. But between us we don’t have love. That’s for the Divinities.”
“You’re not a Brictan, are you?” he remarked. “I think when I chose the next Chief Truvidir he’ll be a Brictan of a high degree.”
I didn’t understand, and that amused him even more.
“You want King Kailen to spy for you,” I repeated what I’d already said while trying to ignore his annoying chuckle. “But why don’t you use of Zabul instead? What’s in his head isn’t covered by a layer . . . love.”
“And as I have said, distance limits what I can do. If they’re going to East Isle—which they are—they’ll be too far away for me.”
“But if it’s too far away for you then isn’t it too far away for Queen Bregan too? She’s not an Immortal like you.”
“Love strengthens,” he said. “There’s no such thing as too great a distance where there is love. Love, Truvidir Markenys, not desire or passion, not lust or simply affection. Love. So maybe I won’t have quite the same kind of information as we’d receive from your doves, but if Queen Bregan’s life is in danger, then this we shall know. It is enough.”
“I’m not happy,” I said.
“I know that.” Of course he would know. “You’d rather have had King Kailen killed before he’d gone so far. But I would rather know what’s happening in the east. There’s another Immortal involved in this—I’ve said before. And if it’s who I think it is . . . But no,” he vehemently shook his head, “no matter the who, any Immortal is a danger to us. The Nritrin are involved with him. They have their eyes set on the Alsaldic Lands. Don’t waste your breath in asking why, Markenys. You know the answer. So we have to ensure they never get what they want.”
I knew the answer? Then apparently it was hiding from me.
“You grow too lazy,” said Uissid Tizarn. “You want me to explain everything for you. I’m not your mother to feed you pap.”
So again I had to sit and think, to muse, ponder, consider, to weigh and to measure and . . . “Metal!”
He smiled and nodded. “Aye, metal. To be precise, copper and tin; the one from Meksuin’s Land, the other from Du Dlida.”
“And what of South Eskin Head and Banva Go?” I asked.
“It’s too late for us to protect those sources: the Luguish alliance has them. But we have to protect Meksuin and the Three Holds.”
“I’ll send messages at once.” I said, immediately fired up with the idea of defence. “There’s to be no further trade in metals—neither as gifts nor as mutual exchange—with even the most obscure lesser kings of East Isle, nor with any one involved in the Luguish alliance—not that they need copper from us.”
“You had better include all the eastern kings in that embargo: those of White Lands and Broken Hand. And while you’re at it, include the Gousen. They’re in alliance with the Nritrin.”
I smiled, I chuckled, I laughed. See! I had worked it out all for myself. I didn’t need Uissid Tizarn to feed me pap. I went at once to organise the sending of these messages.
King Kailen goes to East Isle laden with gift, clearly with intent of acquiring more swords. Meanwhile, Uissid Tizarn will make use of Kailen’s love for Bregan, and hers for him, to spy on the doings there. For somewhere there, as Uissid Tizarn long has known, is another Immortal. And that Immortal now has eyes set on the Alsaldic Empire. Anyone for toast? Next episode, Of Doves and Swords