Uissid Tizarn is worried. Somewhere in the east is another Immortal with intent on conquering the Alsaldic Empire—and now King Kailen is heading out there, one assumes to acquire more of those magical swords. Uissid Tizarn needs to keep tabs, but how, on such distant happenings? Through the intense love between King Kailen and Bregan—though the mechanics of that has eluded the head of Chief Truvidir Markenys . . . Read on
Within a decan of the Feast of Trees King Kottir began his circuit of the Alsaldic Lands, taking Queen Bregan with him. As soon as I heard this news I went straight to Uissid Tizarn.
“You’ve got to stop them!”
He looked up from whatever it was he was doing—something with a piece of nettle-twine (at times he did the strangest things, with no purpose or meaning that I could find).
“It is usual,” he said, calm as a pond, “for the King and his Queen to process around the Alsaldic Lands every summer’s half.”
“Aye, I know that well,” I said. “But if Queen Bregan goes beyond the limit where you can do things with her head what then of King Kailen—of using her to follow his doings?”
“You worry too much. Think about it,” he said. “How many swords does King Kailen want?”
I shrugged. How was I supposed to know that? Uissid Tizarn sighed—which I took to mean that I should try to guess it.
“Zabul brags of having one hundred war-bands serve him,” I said.
“Aye,” Uissid Tizarn said. “And if only the leaders of those war-bands are equipped with these, that still gives him the need of one hundred swords. And what of the others? King Erberdu and his men, Lord Glavyn and his, and Lord Kezir? That ought to keep King Burdamon’s sword-master busy for quite some time. Though I don’t know how long it takes to make one of these swords, but five hundred? That’s going to take more than a trik. I’d say those swords will not be ready till, oh, at least the Feast of Slaughter. And then they have to take the swords back to Banva Go, perhaps going by way of South Eskin Head and Liënershi? No, by the time their men have been equipped it’ll again be the Feast of Trees. So are you still in a panic that the Alsaldic King and his Queen should make their usual circuit this summer’s half?”
“I’ll double their guard,” I said.
He nodded his agreement. “That will give the markan something to do other than delivering messages for you.”
So I tried not to worry, tried to be as carefree as Uissid Tizarn seemed to be. Yet every day I waited for whatever the news my doves might bring me.
King Kottir and Queen Bregan’s first stop was the King’s Hold at North Bounds in West Alsime Land. The truvidir there sent news of this, making his marks upon the willow leaf, this fixed to a dove which then brought the message swiftly to me. His message also contained a request—for more doves—which kicked at a lurking thought in my head.
“Three hundred and fifty in all,” reported the law-men having counted my birds.
That in itself alarmed me. There should not be so many, here at this King’s Hold.
When this clever messaging system was first instigated, the Chief Truvidir—not me but a predecessor now long since dead—had stocked his cotes with four hundred and forty-four doves, an intended twelve for each truvidir serving the subject kings and lords. Of course, doves aren’t immortal. Like us, they die. But the bird-keepers at the king’s holds were expected to replace as required.
I had no doubt the doves kept by the truvidiren serving those five former kings of East Isle who now were part of the Nritrik lands had ended their lives in the bellies of the incoming conquerors. I shuddered at the possibility that the truvidiren had ended the same. I remembered my own panicked flight from that place. But I’d already accounted those missing doves, allowing seven per truvidir. So now there ought to be four hundred and nine doves, all told.
But! There now were another six truvidiren who had either been killed else preferred to remain silent. If each had had seven doves left . . . subtracting forty-two birds from my total . . . three hundred and sixty-seven doves in all. And the law-man had counted three-hundred and fifty in my cotes.
That left only seventeen doves distributed amongst the truvidiren.
But there were twenty-five truvidiren in need of them! Things were wrong. Things were amiss.
“Cage-up twelve doves for each of the truvidiren serving our loyal lords and kings,” I barked at the law-man. “Have the Regiment deliver them at once. No delaying.”
I was annoyed, deeply. I had twenty-five truvidiren spread throughout the Alsaldic Lands, and with them seventeen birds. Who were the eight without them? And why hadn’t they let me know? Moreover, why hadn’t my bird-keeper recorded the comings and goings? Now look at the confusion!
Then another thought hooked me: What if some of the truvidiren had eaten their doves when food was scarce during Draksen’s stay? They would not!
No matter. My prime task now was to ensure each of the currently serving truvidiren received twelve fresh doves. And I would charge a law-man instead of the keeper with the daily tally of the doves. I wondered how my predecessors had managed, for I’d found no recording system when I became the Chief Truvidir. If it had been there I would have kept to it, I swear.
King Kottir and Queen Bregan next visited East Bounds in West Alsime Land. The message I received said how much Queen Bregan liked the King’s Hold there.
After East Bounds they carried on eastward, to Bayland—the land of Bregan’s mother’s family. They stayed there longer than they had at the previous two holds. I have no doubt, although it was not reported, that King Kottir was treated to stories of how wonderful King Hudrys had been before the coming of the dragon. Maybe with Queen Bregan’s mother Kastea being the granddaughter of one of their kings (King Lupean) they wanted to treat Queen Bregan well. The message I received merely noted their arrival, and subsequent departure.
From Bayland they returned to West Alsime Land and direct to the southern King’s Hold before calling in at West Bounds.
By now the doves I had sent should have arrived at their destinations. I noted that none of the truvidiren were stupid enough to use the precious doves to send messages saying they had been received. This both pleased and annoyed me: I would have liked that confirmation, but I would have been annoyed had I received it.
King Kottir and Queen Bregan next visited Du Dlida. By now they were travelling by boat—it was easier than riding. It didn’t surprise me that they remained even longer in Du Dlida than they had in Bayland. Two decans in all. This extra long stay—usually a king’s visit is reckoned at two to three days—meant they would have less time to visit the North Eskin Provinces before winter-half sent them scurrying back. That pleased me enormously for it was surely that direction which harboured the most danger.
On leaving Du Dlida they again took to horses to ride north to Taca Riori. As with Du Dlida, Taca Riori has only two provinces outside the Bukplugent-holdings. The Alsaldic King and his Queen remained two days at each before resuming their circuit, again by boat.
They sailed now to West River Gate via Anyo Cobi and Ani Cobi. They then took the long sea-route round to Meksuin’s Land and the Three Holds. Of course, by doing so they could call at Fifi Go, Mo Ria, Saria and Emiso Go, before completing the round at King Butalkin’s holding in Meksuin’s Land.
And now, summer-half all-but through, our new Alsaldic King and his Queen must return south to us. But I feared—oh, how I feared—that they would return by way of the Way. But they must not! No, even if they had to remain in Meksuin’s Land the winter through, they must not return via the Way.
The title of the next episode might give us a clue as to why King Kottir and Queen Bregan must NOT return via the Way. But what does Chief Truvidir Markenys know that he’s in such a panic? Trouble Along The Way
Finding all those place names a puzzle? Check out the Map of Alsaldic Lands