It was Bryony who suggested the exchange of sisters. But that was before she’d found herself wrapped in King Kottir’s arms. Now when Markon Ingobo returns with her father’s agreement and the arrangements, she’s not so sure she wants to complete it . . . Read on
Though I knew it weren’t possible, I wanted to stay with King Kottir. But my sister Bregan was the Queen, she was King Kottir’s wife. And no matter what she’d done with King Kailen while my father held her captive at King Burdamon’s Hold, still she must be returned to her rightful place. I couldn’t prevent it, and neither would I want to. But to be returned to my father . . . I didn’t want that either.
Whatever his special purpose for me, it had required that I wasn’t touched, not spoiled, and I had destroyed that plan now. So when I returned I’d no longer be of use to him. However else he now might treat me it would not be with kindness. He’d probably give me to King Burdamon as another of his wives. Or maybe he’d make me a slave, a dancer to perform at his command. That would amuse him; he had disapproved whenever I danced.
I became lost in my thoughts of how to escape whatever my fate. I had invited this, I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask for King Kottir’s help. Neither did I want him to know how I dreaded my return to Yewlen. I didn’t want that in his head when he met with my father. So I went to Uissid Tizarn instead. Maybe he could help me. I told him everything.
Uissid Tizarn listened, nodding as he understood my plight, tutting at my foolishness. When I had finished the telling he asked, “Why do you tell me this?”
“I want your help.”
“Mine?” he asked. “But I’m not a warrior.”
“Were there a warrior the equal of my father, then I’d ask him, but you know there is not. Yet, like my father, you are an Immortal. You know him, I know you can help.”
“You’re asking me how to kill him?” he said.
I shook my head. No, I didn’t want to do that. But then . . . aye, I nodded and in that moment it was decided. Aye, it must be done. It wasn’t because of how he’d use me on my return. It was for what he was doing to this land, and to the men who followed him, and to those who stood in his way. Yewlen, King Ithen, was a wicked man. Evil. And I detested him. But it was not for myself that I’d kill him. I’d do it for all the unnamed others.
On thinking that, I almost laughed. How many others have said the same of the one they fear? The one they detest. The one they vow they’ll kill even if they must die in the trying. Aye, said to ease the burden of killing.
“How might an Immortal be killed?” I asked Uissid Tizarn. “Is it at all possible?”
“Oh, I have known a few who’ve been killed—or at least have died. Gimmerin, he was drowned. At the same time so was Barega, Queen Kared’s sister. And I’m sure there have been others.” Uissid Tizarn nodded.
“I am not a warrior,” I said. “But I am a Brictan of second degree, and I can command as well as King Kottir. Maybe better.”
He understood me. He wanted what I wanted. He would help.
He said. “To find a way of killing an Immortal, first you need know what keeps us alive. Light. We need the light. That’s why when Draksen brought the Darkness we were so weakened.”
Aye, I remembered those days. My sisters and I could barely move., We lay abed and cried. We wept. Terrible our wailing. And unlike Uissid Tizarn, we knew no reason why.
He said, “In that Darkness I laid my body upon a bed of grain. That is the other thing we need to stay alive. Essence of plant. And the grain contains it very neatly.”
“We sought out acorns and hazelnuts, beech mast—as best we could,” I said. “But we didn’t know why, only that we felt better for it.”
“To kill an Immortal,” Uissid Tizarn said, “you must take these things away from him. And, as you’re aware, that isn’t easy. You know how strong an Immortal’s influence. He’ll know at once your purpose. He’ll do all he can to turn you away. So why am I telling you this when Yewlen will never allow you do it? Yet there is a way. Yewlen is a Silver Fold, his element water. Deprive him of water and eventually he’ll die.”
If Uissid Tizarn meant to discourage me, then he failed. Rather, I could see the first glimmerings of a plan. Though how was I to bring it about? I lowered my screen, I opened my thoughts to Uissid Tizarn. I allowed him to see my plan. Much easier than trying to explain using words. I wanted him to see what I was seeing so he best could judge what more was needed to bring it about.
“You’ll need me to travel north with you,” he said, clearly not happy at that.
“But am I strong enough to call them?” I asked. “Will they come to me?”
He didn’t answer that, saying instead, “There are three ways of killing an Immortal. You can put him in a bound chest and sink him to the bottom of the sea. But I doubt if you’re capable of that. Besides, with Yewlen the sea will do him no harm. Though it’ll deprive him of light and weaken him some, he’ll have called someone to his rescue long before that.
“Another way: You might dig a deep pit and bind him and throw him down to the bottom then fill it in and cover it over. But again, that allows him an ample length to call for rescue. Or, again, you could bind him and put him upon a pyre and set it afire. Then let the winds take up his ashes and disperse them.
“For myself, I favour this third way. Fire opposes Water. But how do you get past his defences? How to immobilise him? He’s not going to stand still and let you kill him.”
“My nephews are invisible to him,” I said. “It isn’t just that he cannot see them. He’s not even aware of them. For him, they just don’t exist.”
“I need to think,” he told me. “I’ll give you my answer before you leave.”
And what would I do if I succeeded? Aye, dearly would I have liked to stay with King Kottir, but that could not be. The best I could think was to return to my sisters. I’d been happy there in our woodland fastness. I’d be happy to return there. Wouldn’t I?
Or had I been spoiled in more ways than one? Now I was used to living like a queen – or at least like the daughter of one and the lover of another. I was used to fine weavings and pretty bits of gold. I was used to having the finest foods and softest down beds. I was used to men looking at me with desire—which was more than my father ever had done. Could I now go back to that wildwood where the only men were my malformed nephews? Could I go back there where the finest food was the berries and honey found by Sorrel? Could I go back knowing that my father would no more bring us furs and weavings? What then were we to wear? If I succeeded in destroying my father, what would my sisters do—what would they say to me? Would they be pleased? Queen Bregan had told them of him but, unlike me, they hadn’t seen for themselves. They might be angry with me. They might try to kill me as I’d killed him. And still there’d be no King Kottir to snuggle up to at night.
Maybe I’d do better to go overseas? Perhaps in Banva Go there’d be a place for me? Perhaps there I would find a man equal to Kottir? I didn’t want to leave him yet I knew that I must.
Plans, counter plans. Which is the more daring? Which the more likely to succeed? And even if Uissid Tizarn does help her, and all goes as she’s imagined it, has Bryony sufficient resolve to kill her father, an Immortal? Next episode, Sprigs Enlisted