“It’s a hunter,” Truvidir Isbalen dismissed the guard’s report, not bothering to investigate further.
“It’s a woman.” The guard, face reddened, nose dripping, looked from Truvidir Isbalen to me, from me to King Kottir, from the king to Uissid Tizarn.
“A woman?” King Kottir said. “Describe her. How does she look?”
Cold, I thought. I could not even imagine how cold she must be, poling that boat. Or was she seated and paddling? And which of these options would be worse.
“She’s still too far away,” said the guard, a sleeve up to dry his nose. “But I could see . . . she’s . . . she’s glowing, my lord king—like you, and Uissid Tizarn there.”
I frowned. So the guard had Brictish blood to see so much? And not only the blood but apparently their tricks. Could he also receive messages into his head? Could he coerce? I felt decidedly uneasy, now, in his presence. That King Kottir was a Brictan, and Queen Bregan, too, that was one thing. But a common guard? Why him and not me? I, as Chief Truvidir, would have benefited most by it.
By now King Kottir was onto his feet, in haste discarding his warm fur—the fool. Gathering about him his less-warm cloak, he headed for the door.
“Wait!” Uissid Tizarn shouted—and no doubt did things in King Kottir’s head, since King Kottir stopped at once, as if colliding there with a solid wall.
“You’re right, it could be a trap. Keep a watch on this woman,” King Kottir instructed the guard. “I want to know where she goes. If she should pull her boat against our landing . . . if she intends to come here . . .?
“She does. That is exactly her intent,” Uissid Tizarn said.
“Who is she?” King Kottir asked, for the moment ignoring the waiting guard. But then he commanded the guard: “Escort her here. Remain alert. Keep a watch along the river. Expect more boats. Expect armed men.”
The guard nodded at each new command and when no more came he returned to the cold. I wondered if there, outside in the cutting winds, his Brictish blood was of benefit to him; did it help keep him warm? It was a silent battle to wish it not, but cold though I was I couldn’t be that mean.
“Do you know what day this is?” Uissid Tizarn asked, but not of any specific one of us. “It’s Songast’s third Saram: the last day of the trik. Tomorrow is the Feast of Birds. I wonder what omens this brings?”
I ignored his musing. “Who is she?” He had obviously told King Kottir this, though silently, within his head.
“She is Uissid Yewlen’s daughter,” Uissid Tizarn said.
I smiled. I grinned. Until he added, “But she is not Queen Bregan.”
“Yewlen has another daughter?” I asked.
“I would not be surprised if he had a gaggle,” Uissid Tizarn said, and tittered, not quite a chuckle.
“But which one is this?” King Kottir asked him.
“She’s the wily one,” he said. “I can get very little from her, but not because she casts a screen. She’s like a huntress: she has but one aim and that, King Kottir, is set upon you. No, don’t be alarmed. She intends you no harm.”
“But she comes from Yewlen?” asked King Kottir.
“Her father has sent her, aye,” he said. “But I’m not sure she comes from him.”
I considered this, what he had said: her father had sent her, but she hadn’t come from him. What did he mean by that? King Kottir didn’t question it; no doubt receiving Uissid Tizarn’s explanation directly into his head. But those words, to me, were a riddle and I never was much good at those. I had to ask for explanation.
“You’re getting old,” Uissid Tizarn said. “You need replacing.”
I cast a glance at Truvidir Isbalen. Was he being prepared to take my place? Is that why Uissid Tizarn had allowed him to be the King’s Truvidir?
He said, “She makes this visit at her father’s request—she has little choice in that. Yet her purpose here is her own; I believe she is seeking to betray her father.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?” I asked.
“Oh, it is that,” Uissid Tizarn agreed. “So we will welcome her. And we shall protect her. And she will tell us what we want to know.”
And so we waited for her arrival . . .
Yewlen’s daughter . . . but not Queen Bregan. Sent at her father’s bidding, yet with a mission of her own, possibly to betray her father. But Yewlen—better known to the Nritrin as King Ithen—will not allow that. Will he? Next episode, The King’s Volunteers