Now the Anas are grown, Kerrid needs to secure them away from the Toad. She has stirred her head into thinking—which has to be better than her previous brooding. And now she has an idea.
Walls, ready now.
Now the Anas are grown, Kerrid needs to secure them away from the Toad. She has stirred her head into thinking—which has to be better than her previous brooding. And now she has an idea.
Walls, ready now.
The Uissids plan to be rid of the Toad has failed. Now Kerrid lives in dread, particularly afraid for her Anas. What if he wreaks his vengeance upon them?
See How They Grow ready now.
Another granary hit, the news of it shattering for the granary-family. And it seems Mistress Drea might be next dead—and that before she’s been told of Detah’s new role . . . Read on.
Shunamn was hovering uncertainly around Mistress Drea’s lifeless body. Erspn waved him away. Then with an apology for intimate touching, he turned her over, belly down, head turned, one leg pulled up in support so she wasn’t quite flat. He used a corner of his feathered cloak to fan the air round her, there being no breeze in this isle and she needed all he could give her of Jaja’s breath. Still fanning, he chanted words learnt from his own eblan-master. He didn’t know their meaning, they were not Alisime. Eyes watched him.
Detah, he heard, mumbling prayers to the Father, the Mother, to Master Nod, to please not take another. He heard Krisnavn ask what he was doing, and Detah’s explanation: “Enticing her spirit, calling it back. Likely she’s gone seeking our mother.”
“But he’s not entranced.”
“Trancing takes time and my sister’s spirit could be lost by then. He’s our Head Man, he’s not lost one yet.”
Erspn stepped back as an awful moan issued from the depths of the granary-mistress. But was it her spirit, or was it some other, possessing? Her shoulders heaved as she took a deep breath. He held his own, not wishing to share it. Then as her breathing shallowed, so Erspn spoke to her, though again in words he’d learned from his master, words not Alisime. When the spirit didn’t answer, he smiled and nodded, satisfied it was no other spirit but Drea’s.
She spoke, though her voice was weak and fractured and he had to lean close to hear her. “I don’t want them near me. Tell them to leave.”
He signed for Commander Krisnavn and his captains to move away. Detah, he noticed, stepped back along with them. Between them, Erspn and Demekn helped her to sit though she tried to push them away.
“We’d best get you inside,” Demekn said, speaking as if Mistress Drea were a child.
“No.” She seemed still confused, thrashing with arms as if fighting off ghosts. Her breathing was panicked.
“Hush,” Erspn tried to soothe her.
She took a new breath and held it. Then slowly released it. She nodded. “Aye. Tell the commander king-man that I am ready to talk. If you’ll just help me onto to the cushion.”
He noticed she quickly dabbed at her eyes with the sleeve of her chemmy.
When Commander Krisnavn returned, Detah beside him, Mistress Drea signed them to sit.
“I had not expected them to strike at our south bounds,” she said, her voice still weak, her hands clasped tightly into her lap.
“I feared it,” Commander Krisnavn admitted. “But I’d hoped we’d have time to set a guard there. Now we must act before more happens. I have my men ready, I wait only for your agreement to move them into position.”
“Where?” she asked.
Commander Krisnavn listed the stations and the patrols. Erspn approved. The river-gates, of course, he’d have done the same. But West Bounds, Eli Go Common and Black Water, that surprised him. As for the scarp around His Indwelling, he ought to have thought of it.
“But First Water already is guarded,” he said. “I’ve alerted the Alsime dwelling along her length. They’ll not allow any Kerdolan longboat to pass.”
Commander Krisnavn nodded acknowledgement. “But I shall still post my men where it gates with the Waters. And these men you speak of, you must warn them. These Kerdolan use poisoned arrows. If one hits—”
“Commander Krisnavn, we are talking of Alisime men,” Erspn said. “These are hunting men. They know how to hide, and how to drive an arrow into a sitting duck. It’s the man who stands to pole his lumbering longboat that makes himself the target.”
“Even so,” Commander Krisnavn said, “if one does take an arrow, barbed though it is, he must immediately pull it. Should the wound start to swell, they must cut it away. It’s not the venom that kills, it’s the festering, after. It is a slow and most unpleasant death. Make sure that you tell them of this.”
“We’ve already told them.” Erspn offered the slightest of smiles. So much for Commander Krisnavn, thinking himself the only one knowing. But what of Detah? Why did she then look away? To hide her pride in her master? Or her shame for sitting beside him? Ten days away, much could have changed in the course of those days.
“I heard the news,” put in Demekn which then explained things.
Detah’s head snapped round. “Of Glania?”
He didn’t answer, not in words. Yet his slight head movement gave it away.
“I would like to see Bukfreha’s dead before they are treated,” Commander Krisnavn said. “May I have your permission, Mistress Drea? I need to know if poison was used.”
“Aye,” she said, weary, exasperated, who knew which. “Aye to the men. Aye to the inspection. Aye to whatever must be done.”
They waited while Commander Krisnavn spoke to his captains, to have the men moved into position. “Then, Biadret, Bukfreha’s Isle, you know where it is. Take a good look around. I want a full report. Also, take a couple of markons, I’m sure we can spare two. Have the trader’s store emptied and loaded to packhorses. Everything brought back to here. You remember the route?”
“You’ll need more than two men and your horses to move what’s there,” Erspn said. “I’ll find you some river-walkers. That’ll be quicker, be easier.”
“I thank you for the offer, but I think not. Not while the Kerdolan make use of the rivers. Right now it’s safer to use the bound-tracks.” He turned back to Biadret. “Take three horses each.”
“I must see to the burials,” Mistress Drea said as though to herself.
“No,” Erspn told her. “You know that’s for eblann. I’ll go there as soon as these talks are done.”
“Is it not done? What more is to say?” Her voice sounded strained, as if she must force herself to speak at all.
“I know this is an ill-time, I regret I must ask,” Commander Krisnavn said. “Yet, well, my men do not live on air alone.”
“You ask for my grain?”
“Only as needs.”
“How much?” She glanced back at the granary though it couldn’t be seen.
“That’s something Linkess knows better than I. He oversees our stores. I’ll send him to you. He’ll tell you the sacks required, how much meat.”
“There’s a granary along South Water, and now none there to use,” she said “—Though, no, the families . . . I’m not thinking. Erspn, would you, while there, collect up the tallies and bring them to me? But for now, aye, take as you need of its grain. But record it. Then best, too, take all the goats. There’s no one there now to tend them.”
“Goats would be preferred,” Commander Krisnavn assured her. “The right size for a detachment of men. Cattle are too big, the meat soon spoils.”
“Convenient then, our losses. Is that all?”
“The removal of the Kerdolak threat,” he reminded her.
“But I thought that why you are posting your men.”
“The stations and patrols are for your protection. No, the Kerdolan must be destroyed. Utterly destroyed. Else they’ll harry the bounds to eternity.”
“I think that will not be my problem,” she said.
Erspn heard the weariness in her words. But what could he say. Why deny what he knew to be true. The granaries were now so far into decay, there could be no recovery.
But Mistress Drea straightened her back and bid Commander Krisnavn to say on. “Though why you must tell me, and ask me, when whatever you intend you know I’ll agree it. A leaf in a stream has more control of its drift than me.”
“We’ve become aware from recent intelligence,” Commander Krisnavn told her, “that the Kerdolan along the Water of Waters have set us a trap. And so I must change my plan.”
“Oh? So now you’re to go share a brew with them instead of killing them?” Mistress Drea’s lip part-curled in a sneer. “You said they are a threat, they must be removed.”
“But they are the arms. We kill one, another appears. That’s not the way to be rid of them.”
“You’re saying they’re like the weeds amongst Old Apsan’s herbs? That her garden cannot be cleared of them till all are uprooted?”
“Exactly that,” he answered softly, with evident care.
“So what other do you intend?”
“To strike right into the heart of them. To cut off their head.”
“Arms, hearts, heads . . . it’s true what my mother said of you Uestin. You hide your intent beneath obscuring words. Please, I beg you, speak as you’ll do. This day has been tiring without the need to unriddle your words.”
Erspn couldn’t help but chuckle though he did hide it. He noticed, too, Detah’s hand came up to cover her grin. So she was still granary, Alsime, eblan—his. And there he had worried of losing her to Commander Krisnavn despite that man had killed her father.
“The Kerdolan are ruled by a woman,” Commander Krisnavn said, which, being the subject of many a fabulous story, was commonly known. “Whoever she is, whatever her name, she bears the title, Head of Kerdol. And she dwells on Liënershi.”
“And you intend to kill her.” It was flatly said, not a question. Erspn wondered, did Mistress Drea approve it?
“I intend to defeat her,” Commander Krisnavn amended. “But if to defeat means I must kill her, then so I shall do—though it’s not as I’d have it. Yet, Mistress Drea, I see no other way to it. Not if I’m to clear the Kerdolan from your land.”
“My land? You mean Alisalm? Let me explain this, Commander Horsemaster Krisnavn. Alisalm belongs to no one. Not to me. Not to you. Not even to the Alsime and Ulvregan you find living here. We are but its in-dwellers, that is all.”
“Well, the only in-dwellers here will be spirits unless we destroy the Kerdolan, lop off their head and chop off their hands.”
“Such a reminder, and on this day? But, aye, I agree to your going, if that’s what you’re asking. I agree, too, to the killing if that’s what is needed. Wretched woman has brought it upon herself; it is her due. So what more do you need off me?”
“For now, a boat to take me to Liënershi, with Alisime men to man her. There will be three of us. Myself. Captain Horsemaster Megovis. And Eblan Detah.”
A hefty stone plummeted through Erspn’s body, dragging his head and chest along with it. Though already sitting, its weight bore him down. His breath wouldn’t come. No words. He stared at Detah, willing her to say that he’d heard it wrong. Liënershi? A most dangerous journey, even with their Alisime seamen. That’s if the island really existed. Erspn had heard the Hiëmen, when visiting the feasts, say that the island was a mere figment, an imagined place. Nothing real.
“I don’t yet go there to battle,” Commander Krisnavn said into the silence. “As yet we go only to see the land. Things I need know. Where this Head of Kerdol resides. How it’s defended. How many men at her immediate command. I need to see how best to defeat her.”
Erspn slowly shook his head. “You ask for Detah, but Detah is mine. My apprentice. It’s not for Mistress Drea to agree it. Aye, I approve your intention, but you’d best say more to convince me. You think because I offered her once, I’ll easily lose her to you?”
“Whether you ‘aye’ it or not I shall take Eblan Detah with me,” Commander Krisnavn said in a tone neither severe nor friendly. “However, when I give my reasons you will agree it. She is young. Pretty. And she asks her questions in a most delightful way. While myself, I’m so obviously a Uestin horsemaster, and that cannot be changed. So tell me, which of us will have our questions answered? Detah, of course. Who can refuse her? But I also need her to be my eyes.”
“You’re losing your sight?” Erspn didn’t hide his alarm. What use a blind man to be their king?
Commander Krisnavn grinned. “No. But my eyes are Uestin while Eblan Detah’s are Alisime. And it will be Alisime men who fight the Kerdolan.”
Erspn knew he looked the artless fool but his mouth wouldn’t shut. Neither was he alone, and looks were exchanging between them.
“Why?” he asked at last. “I mean, why use our Alisime men when I’m told they’re no match for your Regiment?”
“Apart from using the Regiment to defend your bounds and your granaries—an apt use of our horsemen—it’s because I need seamen.”
“That, we understand,” Shunamn said, “Liënershi being an island. Your clever tame horses can’t ride over Mistress Nod’s waters.”
“Ah! You’re after Alisime seamen to ferry you there,” Erspn said.
“To ferry, and to fight once we’re there. Though not this time. As I’ve said, this visit is only to set the plan.”
Erspn leaned in closer. There was no denying it, this Commander Krisnavn was a clever man. If only he’d not had to kill the granary-master as-was. “How many men?”
“I’m thinking thirty. More and Ganros won’t have the time to train them.”
“When? I mean, when do you intend this attack?”
“The plan isn’t yet set—”
“Aye, you said.”
“But since it involves crossing the sea . . . before your Feast of Summer Ending.”
“The Murkem Feast of Mistress Nod,” Erspn said, “that’s when they stop sailing, but that’s the same feast.”
“I’d say the earlier the better,” Commander Krisnavn said.
Erspn sat back while he thought, his fingers absently stroking his close-trimmed beard.
“I thought maybe the winners of the Games?” Detah said. “They’re proven men, and if taken from South Landing they’ll likely be seamen. I thought, too, the South Alsime eblann would know who . . .” She faltered to a stop as he looked at her. Yet her suggestion had merit.
“But thirty? That’s pushing.”
“There are four granary-isles from First Landing to West Bounds—”
“Three. Now,” Mistress Drea cut in.
“There were four at the Feast,” Detah persisted. “We need only take seven from each. Those who won first, second and third, for a start. It’s the archers we need.”
“We?” Erspn queried. He’d not yet said she could go.
“But if we didn’t offer the help, as Krisnavn says, we’d not long be living.”
“That wasn’t the query,” he said, and she knew it. And that she’d called him Krisnavn instead of Commander hadn’t been lost on him.
“Some folk sup with the snakes,” Mistress Drea murmured. She, too, had noticed it.
Erspn ignored her. “How soon do you need them?”
“As if yesterday,” Commander Krisnavn said. “They’ll need training.”
“Urgently then. Anything else?”
“We need some to have their own sea-boats,” Commander Krisnavn took up the entailing. “The others need be familiar with the sea’s ways. And in all of this, lest we forget, I need a manned boat to take us to Liënershi, and that in the next few days.”
Erspn took a deep breath. Though this of the men and their boats wasn’t granary business, yet Mistress Drea ought to agree it. He asked. She nodded.
“We need to hear you say it,” Erspn told her.
“Aye.” One curt word said without looking.
“Aye, well, I’m heading down to Bukfreha’s Isle so I’ll pass on the word. I’ll call in at Bisdathea’s too. As Detah noted, those of First Landing, nearest the river, also fish out of Nod’s Bowl.”
“How soon can you get us the boat?” Commander Krisnavn asked.
“Four days?” Erspn said. “Aye, if I can get it at all, it’ll be four. But you be warned, these men will want a reward. We’ve all heard the tales regarding that isle. Some say it plain isn’t there.”
“It is there. We know of Hiëmen who trade there.”
“Aye,” Erspn said. “The same Hiëmen as the source of those tales.”
Commander Krisnavn left that unanswered. “You can make a promise on my behalf,” he said. “This will be the most rewarding journey of their life.”
“If that’s all . . .?” Mistress Drea already was standing, making to leave.
“Thirty additional men,” Commander Krisnavn said. “They’ll need feeding.”
She spun round, hands coming to rest on her hips, fury roasting her face. “Empty our granaries, every last one of them, why not. We’re not to have them beyond this season. Take—take whatever you want.”
Erspn watched her storm off towards the western gate though few ever used it. He’d never seen her stride like that. Demekn raced after her.
“Troubled times,” Erspn said as he turned back. Then he saw Detah’s face, crumpling as she tried to bite back the tears. “Hey, you’re a seed, remember.” She’d told him what Hegrea had said.
“Aye, but with no soil to be sown in.”
“Remember the heron? Have patience. From death comes life, you know it.” But he hoped she’d not find that soil with this Commander Horsemaster Krisnavn. Yet perhaps that’s what the Mistress intended for her?
She dried her eyes. She offered a smile.
“If there is nothing more?” Erspn said.
“No. I understand you need to be away. I just have arrangements to make with Detah.” He was onto his feet. He and Detah already were walking to where the horses were waiting. Erspn hurried to catch them.
“My apprentice, I’ve said. Any arrangements are made with me.”
“So be it, I’ll keep it brief. I’ll need Detah back at the barracks on the fourth day. Let’s hope by then you’ve found us a boat. Are you able to do this alone?” he asked Detah. “I’ll send Megovis if you’d rather.”
“I think I can find my way there,” she said with a bitten back grin.
He laughed. “Aye,” he said, Alisime-fashion, “and I suppose on your horse you’ll be safe.”
Erspn couldn’t miss the affection between them. But how could he stop it developing further? Aye, he wasn’t a fool, he knew that he couldn’t. Then, though he’d not yet agreed she could go, he found himself saying, “Mind you keep to the paths when you get to that Ancients Land.”
“Is it true?” Shunamn asked, having followed them over. “Is it infested?”
“In places, there are . . . let’s say a few,” Commander Krisnavn said with an almost-smile. “But our Detah knows how to avoid them. It’s her been instructing us.”
“Really?” Erspn said with a surge of panic. He ought to draw her away, by whatever means, back to himself, to where she belonged. But how? HOW?
“Remember,” Commander Krisnavn was telling her, “you’re to dress as a Hiëmen. You know how? Else Megovis—”
She laughed. “Haldalda, our eldliks’ woman, is Hiëmen; she’ll help me.”
“Belgantros will remain with our horses at the barracks while you’re away. And, please, this time you need only to bring yourself. Linkess will provide all the food you can eat.”
She nodded. It seemed she wanted to say more. Erspn suddenly felt awkward standing beside them.
“Then that’s all. We’ll see you in four days.” With one graceful movement he was onto his horse.
“One thing I need to know,” Erspn called as already Commander Krisnavn and his captains were moving away. “How long will my apprentice be gone?”
Commander Krisnavn held out his hands. “I am no seaman to answer you that. Best you ask the man you find for us. We go to Liënershi to find gifts for this, um . . . young Hiëmen woman who’s newly my wife.”
“Your . . .!?” Erspn spluttered.
Commander Krisnavn laughed. “Don’t be alarmed. Detah will explain it.”
“You,” Erspn turned to her, too stunned yet to say more.
She took the reins of the red-coated horse.
“And is that yours?”
“Hmm. A gift. For helping.”
“You and I need to talk.”
“I’ve a horse to attend.”
“You can talk and attend? Only I’ve to be on my way and this is somewhat important. His wife?”
After the long turn along the Alisime borders it seems now things are moving too fast. Is Detah still to be counted as Erspn’s apprentice? Is her marriage to Krisnavn a portent of what’s to come? And what will they find at the fabled isle of Liënershi? Who is this Head of Kerdol?
Now Krisnavn understands more fully the plot against him he’s able to sharpen his plans. But to effect the first part he needs a helpmate. His choice there surprises everyone, especially Detah . . . . Read on.
She didn’t want to make this ride. It wasn’t only that she’d see no more of Belgantros, there was also the thought of facing her sister. No doubt Drea’s greeting would be laced with spite, as if her tongue hadn’t been barbed enough before. Now, after ten days away in Krisnavn’s company, Detah was bound to be Drea’s least favourite person. And Krisnavn was the other reason for her lack of enthusiasm, though she included Megovis and Biadret in that. She’d grown used to their company. She had enjoyed being their guide. Even though, in the end, she’d not been as awkward as her eblan-master had wanted. To her, they’d become not Saramequai Regiment, not horsemasters, Querkan or Uestin, but friends. She sighed—perhaps for the twentieth time.
Last night, after the meeting—before she would spend her last night, alone, in the white-walled tent—Krisnavn had called her back. She’d thought it was to confirm the arrangements for this morning, that they’d assemble at the barracks gate.
She had turned. “Commander?”
“No,” he’d said. “I’ve told you, you’re to call me Krisnavn.”
It was true, he had said, though she’d never called him that in front of his captains. She squinted, nose wrinkled, head cocked. But then he’d said nothing, his intention obviously changed. His captains had looked quizzical at him, but still nothing.
Now he called to her again as she was leading Belgantros from the corral. She stopped and waited. And closer now, he rested his hand over hers where she held the reins and rested it upon Belgantros’s back. The heat was startling. And he oughtn’t to do that. Yet the thrill it! The heat raced through her; she wished it never would stop.
“Detah,” he said again, and to her disappointment withdrew his hand. Now his tone turned formal. “You have served the Commander of the Saramequai Division of the Regiment most thoroughly these past nine days. As a guide. With your knowledge. Entertaining me with your stories. I cannot let you go without a gift.”
But she needed no gift. Though she’d not refuse a pair of Regiment breeches.
He said, “I would like Belgantros to be yours. If it won’t upset Mistress Drea for you to keep him at her isle.”
She wanted to laugh, to jump, to grin, to hoot, to throw her arms around his neck. She wanted to . . . But she stood as if paralysed while everything rushed around inside her. She wiped at a tear.
“It pleases you?” he asked.
She sniffed back a tear even while her mouth broke into a smile. She nodded, vigorously. “Does it please me? Enormously.”
“And you’ll be able to keep him at Isle Ardy?”
“No, likely not, but that’s not where I’ll be. An apprentice must lodge with her eblan-master, and that’s at Sapapsan’s Isle. They’re used to the horses there; their granary-trader . . . Then likely this summer-half we’ll spend at the Cloud Stone Isle.”
Megovis laughed when she joined the captains at the gate. “Someone’s happy. Must be delight at leaving us.”
She shook her head. No, she’d no delight in that. Yet the gift had opened her sadness and made it a bloom. She was the honeysuckle, she was a rose. How she had longed for the freedom this horse now would bring her. No more to have her feet buried in earth. No more turning to stone. Every bound-track in this land was hers to explore. She grinned to think she now could nose through the hedges, see deep into the otherwise forbidden family-lands. And on those wider clear tracks that they had found, there she could fly. What a gift! Krisnavn had given her Saram’s wings.
“Detah?” Krisnavn’s voice startled her out of her reverie. Already they’d crossed the Sometimes Stream and she’d not even noticed. “Detah, we need to talk before we reach Isle Ardy.”
“Talk, but of what?” she asked in sudden fear. He’d sounded so serious.
“Of Liënershi. I want you to come with us.”
“You need say that again. I think I misheard you.”
“I doubt that you did. I want you to come to Liënershi with us.”
She didn’t immediately answer. She had to think about this. Then she asked why. “I’d be no guide there. I’ve not been before.”
“Please do. Seems I’ve left my reasoning head back at your barracks.” She could find no reason he’d want her with him.
“By now you’ll know I don’t make plans on hearsay. Though I’ve heard much of this island and of the people, I trust it all as traders’ tales. I need to see this place. See how the land lies. What is built where. But, no matter how you dress me, I am a Saramequai commander. My captains could wear Alisime garb and still they’d be Saramequai captains. So I need a reason for this horsemaster to visit there, a reason that won’t raise suspicions. You are that reason.”
“Oh, so taking a granary-born Alisime eblan along with you won’t raise suspicions?”
“If that’s how they see you . . . But listen. As you know, it’s forbidden for the markons and markistes to wed. But not so for horsemasters.”
“Aye, I know that of the Regiment. But how’s that to do with my going to Liënershi?”
“Every man wants to wed a young woman, but mostly the young women want only young men. Pity the older, widowed, man who must content himself with an older, widowed, woman. Of course such women have value. Wisdom, knowledge, experience. But she’s less likely to provide for him a son. So those few women who have served as markons are snapped up. But what does this leave for a horsemaster thinking to wed? Older than most widowed men, what young woman would want him?”
“If you think yourself old, you’re wrong,” she said. He was younger than she remembered her father to be. He’d hardly a grey hair in his braids and not one that she’d seen in his floppy-grown ‘tache. So what if he had wrinkles around his eyes. They were from laughing. She always knew when he was amused, even without him chuckling aloud. Those lines formed like fine spider webs around his Saram-blue eyes. No, he wasn’t too old for a young woman to wed. Just look at those shoulders, no slumping there. Broad and solid, like the triliths of the Sun’s Cove. And his belly too, that was flat and looked hard. She’d heard the women say they liked that. Her eyes tracked down to his legs, long and shapely. But she bit back further thoughts. What young woman would refuse such a man. She sighed. Then caught the way he was looking at her, and felt a heat-surge that burned in her cheeks.
“Well, old or otherwise, there’s one thing all horsemasters possess that makes even the ugliest of us seem attractive. Saram’s power, Beli’s fire. And Uath’s wealth. And this particular horsemaster, now that he has a pretty young Hiëmen as wife, would like to spend some part of that wealth adorning her with fabulous fabrics and gold and gems.”
“You’ve a wife?” She panicked. Would his Hiëmen wife come claw out her eyes for what she’d been thinking?
“I have not,” he said. “But I shall have.”
Oh, she allowed herself to relax. So he hadn’t yet wed her. But that didn’t make her feel that much better.
“Detah, when have you ever not reasoned it out?”
Oh, no, he was muddling her further. She could feel herself shrinking. What was he trying to say? That he wanted her . . . No! No, he could not be saying that.
“As a pretence, a disguise,” he said.
“In play?” She swallowed the sudden disappointment.
“It isn’t unusual—ask my captains, we’ve all seen it. The Kerdolan will think nothing of it. And who better to play the part. These past days we’ve grown close, become familiar. We know how each other thinks. We touch. These things are important in convincing another. And you ask questions. You listen, you reason. I’ve no doubt that you’ll discover more than Megovis and myself together.”
“You want me to play like I’m your Hiëmen-born wife?” This was unbelievable.
Detah saw the two riverboats moored at Ardy’s wharf long before they reached it. Visitors. But who? Two men—she saw them as soon as she turned Belgantros to enter between the high walls of the gate. Alsime by their bonnets, talking to Shunamn. She guessed they’d not long arrived; they’d not yet been allowed beyond the trench that formed the third ring. Though perhaps their business was with Shunamn only.
Shunamn and the Alsime turned to look as she, Krisnavn and his captains emerged from the shadows. And suddenly she didn’t want to enter here. It was something in the set of their bodies. They’d brought ill-news; she didn’t want to hear it.
Belgantros ought for the while be stalled in the western section of the arcade where he’d not be seen from the granary. But instead, when she dismounted, she left him with the others horses, reins stone-weighted—so she could wait with the Saramequai for Shunamn.
“Eblan Detah. You’re not expected back this soon.”
“She would have been sooner but for the state of the bound-tracks,” Krisnavn said.
Shunamn turned a fierce face to him. “Aye, and had you returned sooner, likely these men wouldn’t be here now with their news.”
“More killings?” The word killing repeated as torment inside her head, though she’d no need to ask. She’d known from the moment seen.
“Bukfreha’s Isle,” Shunamn said.
But . . . No, that wasn’t the most easily gained, set far from South Water’s sea-gate. Had they come over the hills from West Bounds? Yet none without knowledge could find the way. No, this made no sense. She looked to Krisnavn as if he could answer. But he, too, looked dumfounded and shaken.
“I hadn’t expected a strike this soon.” He kept to Uestuädik for Shunamn not to be party. “It has to be in response to seeing us along North Bounds. But . . . three, four days? Can they move so fast?”
He asked Shunamn and the Alsime how it had happened. Though he’d asked in Hiëmen, the way they looked at him, he might have been speaking northern Feg. Detah had to repeat it.
“Kerdolan in their longboats, heavy with archers,” Shunamn said. “What use their high fences when arrows fly over?”
“How many . . .?” She could not say the word dead.
“But . . .” Her head fogged. This wasn’t . . . they weren’t . . . here were families. “Ablabran’s mistress as well? Her daughter, her sister? Her sister’s children? No! Please say it’s not true.”
“All dead,” Shunamn said.
She turned to Krisnavn, anger already replacing the horror. “These women, all were kin to Mandatn. Sisters, mothers, aunts. They were Glontria’s own nieces. I will not believe it of her.”
Horsemasters were trained to show no emotion yet it was there in the way he closed his eyes, as if to shut out the news. Though otherwise, his composure didn’t falter. He asked of Shunamn if Mistress Drea had yet been informed.
“I’ve only now had the news.”
“This is not a good time to be speaking with her, yet I must. What of Eblan Demekn, and your Eblan Head Man, Erspn? How soon can they be here?”
“They’re here,” Shunamn said and turned towards the lodge as if to fetch them.
“No.” Detah caught hold of his arm. “These men have brought news, and no small distance. Would the granary-master have dismissed them without a reward? Stay your fetching while I find them something. Then there’ll be no need to hold them longer.”
“Away a few days, and here you return, the granary-master.” He spat his opinion. “Even wearing his hair.”
Detah eased closed the lodge door, not to allow its usual slam. She didn’t want the others alerted. Not yet. She didn’t want their questions. Inside her everything jarred. How could the day begin so happy, with the gift of the horse and to go to Liënershi? Then it crashes to this: the granaries dying, her sister left to manage alone. Was there nothing they could do to halt it? She knew Eblan Erspn would tell her no. She told herself to focus on what she was doing. That was the horsemasters’ way. In that came their composure.
She entered the trader’s store. While she’d been away the bulk of trade wares brought from the northern isles had been stowed in here. But she’d no time to fumble. Instead she found two lengths of woollen-weavings amongst the wares still stacked beneath the inner arcade. Their colours were muted; she deemed them suitable. She took them and turned, to be gone from there.
“Helping yourself?” Eblan Erspn’s hand lay heavy upon her shoulder. She’d not heard him approach.
“Gifts,” she said, hushed. “Two river-walkers, with news. You’re needed outside. Where’s my brother? And Drea?”
“What news?” he asked, his own voice now quiet.
“What you and Mistress Hegrea have said of decay. Another granary gone.”
He stopped his steps. Though into the long narrow passage where there barely was light, yet she could see his face, how it had paled. “Which one? Not Sapapsan’s?”
“No. Southern. Bukfreha’s.”
He held open the door for her.
“You’ve not yet answered. Where are they, my brother and Drea?”
“Demekn? He’s out hunting feathers. Your sister . . .” He nodded back to where the granary was hidden behind the lodge. “I’ll send Ublamn to fetch her.”
“Already sent,” Shunamn sneered at him.
Then Drea must be busy, not to come out at once. Detah was glad of it. It meant she could gift the men and they’d be away before Drea need be told the news. But then Eblan Erspn delayed her. With scarcely a nod to acknowledge Krisnavn, he went straight to the Alsime. He asked them again for their news.
“We’ve said,” the older one said.
“Then, please, would you say again. I do need to hear it.”
So they repeated it.
They’d been poling along South Water, some two days since, when five boats, heavily manned, passed them heading downriver. Five boats together wasn’t unusual, but these weren’t Hiëmen, Alisime, Lenevan or Lugisse. Yet upriver was Bukfreha’s Isle, so they reckoned they were traders from wherever. Still, five boats together, and with so many men . . . they were curious. And so they pushed on beyond Kaskadha’s Land, which was where they’d been bound. They went to Bukfreha’s Isle. But they didn’t arrive till late in the day.
“What we found . . .” the one telling shook his head at the memory. “They all were dead. Grain-women, trader, children, the eldliks, his family, the eblan who lodged there. The only living were the goats.”
“Killed?” Eblan Erspn asked.
Both men nodded.
“How could you tell?”
“Arrows. A mighty lot of them, all stuck in the bodies.”
“What’s been done with them, the bodies I mean?”
“We moved them. Didn’t want the birds and the wolves to . . . We dragged them just into the lodge . . . Didn’t like to enter there. Ward-charms, you know. Then we came straight here. To tell the Mistress of the Granaries. But still we’ve not told her.”
Eblan Erspn nodded. “Aye, well, we’ll tell her. Our thanks for your journey.”
Detah held out the weavings. “For your troubles. We thank you.”
Though their faces flushed a beet-red, they nodded and accepted the gifts. It was usual. But their eyes were on the gate, impatient to be away.
“Commander Krisnavn, if you’ve anything more to ask them . . .?” Eblan Erspn asked.
“No. Let them return to their families.”
“No. Wait,” Detah said before the two men could turn on their heels and be gone. “The trader’s store, did you see, was anything taken?”
“Wouldn’t know where,” said the other.
Detah nodded and allowed them to leave. They exited the isle on their fastest legs without actually running. She could imagine how scared they’d been even to enter the isle with such news. And then to encounter, face to face, this would-be king.
But, in their haste, they all but collided with Demekn.
He looked puzzled as he joined the knot by Ardy’s third ring: Detah, Eblan Erspn, Krisnavn, his captains, and Shunamn. There was a confusion of greetings, Demekn with his clutch of swan feathers, Detah wanting to hug him, and all their glum faces. He glanced back to the wide shadowed gate.
“I knew it,” he said. “I saw them poling and . . . Something told me I must return—”
“A heron was near?” asked Detah but Demekn ignored her.
“They bring ill news?”
“The worst,” Eblan Erspn said. “Though perhaps not unexpected. But hush now. Your sister . . .”
They turned to see her, Ublamn head down beside her. She wasn’t crying. She showed no sign of upset. So Ublamn hadn’t yet told her. Her eyes fixed upon Krisnavn, her face set as stone.
“We’d not expected your return so soon,” she said, then asked after the river-walkers.
“They’ve given their news,” Detah said. “I’ve gifted them and sent them home.”
“You have? What did you give them, feathers?”
“I took from the trader’s store.”
“Aye, well, you once were the trader’s apprentice, so I suppose you’ve some right. Now you, Commander Horsemaster Krisnavn, you’ve come to tell me you’ve destroyed the Kerdolan?”
“I think we ought to sit.” Eblan Erspn glanced back to the shade of the outer arcade.
Drea flicked her hand to fetch Ublamn’s attention. “Cushions.”
Detah breathed in deep, and out again, her attention fully focused on it. It helped still her hands, and to loosen her shoulders. She couldn’t help thinking how alike to their mother her sister now was. Perhaps it was being the Granary-Mistress. But how much Detah now was noticing; it must be the ten days away.
Ublamn must have run, so soon did he return with the cushions. He positioned them between the same posts that her father had favoured. Krisnavn sat without a cushion. Detah too, now she’d grown used to it. As before, at the talks, Megovis and Biadret waited at a discreet distance. She noticed the look on Megovis’s face. She hadn’t a word for it, yet in some way it made her feel better.
“Now,” Drea said—no bend to her back, she could have been cut entirely of stone. “You have news for me? Though I see from your faces it is not good. Please say it, and be done.”
“Bukfreha’s Isle,” Eblan Erspn said. He need say no more.
Turned to stone, had it not been for her breathing she’d be unmoving. Then: “Kerdolan?” And without waiting for answer. “How many dead?”
“All,” Eblan Erspn said.
Stone, when severely shaken and struck, must shatter. Detah had already watched what seemed to the slenderest crack rapidly widen to split the stone into several parts. Now balance lost, those parts tore asunder. What had begun as a crack became a deep chasm. Subjected, now, to this second quake, and unsupported, only one thing could happen. At least one part must collapse. Detah watched as it crashed, as it splintered, as its thousands of fragments were sent flying. The remaining part lurched, impossibly held at a crazy angle. And that’s when Drea fell to the ground. Detah thought she was dead.
Shattering news for the granary-family.
So how now will they receive the news of Detah’s new role?
The children are named. Now whatever’s to happen, is to happen. But where are the Anas? Kerrid has recoiled at her first thought, that Paddlo might have coerced them. That doesn’t bear thinking. Yet . . . where are they?
Turned And Returned, ready now.
It’s Kerrid’s daughters’ naming-day, the day the Uissids Zrone, Ypsi and Jiar have planned to be rid of the Toad. But Kerrid mustn’t think about that. Best she give her thoughts to the Spinner’s riddlesome words.
Beneath The Horse’s Head, ready now.
Krisnavn has realised his mother’s plot—not a nice taste to have in the mouth. So now what will he do? Meanwhile Detah’s not happy to be back at the Saramequai barracks, her adventure over . . . Read on
“The hill soon will green again,” Krisnavn told her, though Detah had said not a word. If she had it would have been to ask why these Saramequai with their tree-clans had destroyed so many trees. Still, she figured they’d not have done it without a need.
That hill stood stark against the pale sky, topped by a tall log-fence that shouted of the Regiment’s presence. But at least down by the river they’d left all alone—except, she now noticed, a newly-made wharf. More wood. Yet the extensive reed-beds were untouched, the haunt of herons and swans, all threaded through with a confusion of channels to defeat a stranger arriving by boat.
A raw track wrapped its sandy-coil a round the hill to deliver them up to the double-leafed gate. More wood. It swung open slowly to reveal . . . she slapped hand to mouth to catch the gasp.
It wasn’t so much the longhouses, rows after rows of them, all facing south. It was more their construction. Even though both Demekn and her father had said, she’d still thought them to be like the old Alisime longhouses such as those still found around East Bounds. But no, not these. Now she understood why they’d cut so many trees. Every building, even the scatter of smaller huts tucked out of the way, all were built of split logs. And this all done in the time taken to ride the bounds? Nine days. But no, Krisnavn had been at the Ulvregan burial, so likely his Regiment had been here too. Yet that only gave them an additional seven.
“Corral. For the packhorses.” Biadret nudged her to move.
She followed him to the back of the buildings, west of the gates. Around her the markons were busy. Though no one spoke she was aware of their watching. Mostly they stared. None seemed friendly. Yet here were Ulvregan who surely must know her. Would not one acknowledge her? As well that she’d changed back to her own clothing. What a reception she’d have had if she’d still been wearing the commander’s breeches!
Biadret left her at the corral. She watched him go, willing him back. But he had his own horse to attend though the pack-horses had been given over to the care of a markon. That markon didn’t speak. That was fine. She feared she might cry anyway, this last time to be grooming Belgantros. Usually she chatted to him while grooming. But now, in front of the markon, she found that she couldn’t. Yet tomorrow, after a final ride back to Isle Ardy, she would never have his company again. So now she took her time in brushing him. She fussed round his ears and patted his muzzle the way that he liked. He was her friend. Her only friend now her father was dead. She would miss him. She bit back the tears.
Someone called her name, not a recognised voice. She turned to look. A markon stood by the corral gate.
“When you’ve seen to your mount, Commander Horsemaster Krisnavn requests that you join him and his captains in his quarters.” It was crisply said.
She looked at the longhouses. “Where are his quarters?”
“The one with the banner floating above.”
Aye, obvious—to a markon who’s familiar with everything here. But banner? Aye, she’d heard the word spoken before, once or twice, but didn’t know what it meant. Yet . . . floating above. She could see something flapping around a tall pole. That must be it. She made her way there. The ‘banner’ was made of three long black ribbons.
The door was made of split-logs. Split-log-everything. She hesitated. Best not to keep him waiting but she couldn’t just enter. Her first time here, she needed an invite. So she called out his name. “Commander?”
Had he heard her? She heard voices within, wall muffled—split-log-wall muffled. She called out again, this time louder.
The talking stopped. There was a creak as of split-logs rubbing. The door opened.
“Oh.” The man was a stranger.
She took in his Regiment shirt, Regiment breeches, the latter sporting Beli’s fire-metal buttons—which meant he must be at least a markiste, though more likely the commander’s third captain-horsemaster.
“Captain Horsemaster . . . ” She tried to remember his name, sure she had heard it mentioned. “I was told Commander Horsemaster Krisnavn wanted to—”
“Fire heron feathers,” he called back over his shoulder. She could see it was bright within, with firelight and lamps. “Regimental braids. Ulvregan skirt—Clan Reumen colours, tcht. Soft leather shirt. Is that deerskin?” He leaned in closer to see. “Could this be our eblan?”
“Is she a woman?”
She recognised the voice. Biadret.
The captain stood back to regard her at length. Though she knew he was playing, still she wanted to curl like a snail and hide under a log. She looked away.
“I believe there could be bumps beneath that shirt. That is very fine leather. Is it deerskin?” he asked her again, peering closer.
“Smoke treated,” she said, though resented.
“Smoke? And that makes it hang as soft as cloth?”
“Softer,” she said grudgingly.
“Ganros, you goat,” Biadret called again. “Stop flirting. Commander is waiting.”
“I’m Ganros,” he said, though he still blocked the door.
Megovis suddenly appeared at his shoulder. “Welcome to the commander’s quarters. Ignore Ganros; he’s newly horsemaster.”
Whatever she’d expected, this wasn’t it. No beds, no hearth, no shelves with pots and baskets. Everything wood, everything new. The smell of that wood was everywhere strong. There was another door, and that, too, of wood. And the floor—not even softened with matting, no wonder it creaked. It groaned beneath Ganros. Though he’d no paunch, he was a big man. Truly an oak. At a corner was a thick-walled pot holding coals. And everywhere along the walls fancy-shaped lamps depended from shiny brackets. Dozens and dozens and dozens of them. But the oddest thing was the bench. Not for sitting for it was set too high, it stretched along an entire side of the room.
“Sit,” Krisnavn commanded and indicated the stool beside him.
The horsemasters sat in a loose circle, as if now they would eat.
“Here,” he said when she hesitated to sit between him and Megovis (though neither did she want to sit near Ganros and Biadret). “You’ve been at my side these past nine days, I’m not losing you now to Ganros.”
“Oh,” Ganros whined. “And I so wanted to touch that shirt.”
“Only the shirt?” Biadret asked.
She saw Megovis start to rise but Ganros held out his hands, signing peace.
Krisnavn looked round at the men. “Am I missing something here?”
“A camp full of men, someone needs to protect her,” Megovis said.
Biadret laughed. “You? Protecting an eblan? What happened to you not liking them?”
Though Detah knew well of bantering men, she still was grateful for Krisnavn’s one word. She eyed with caution the oak-built Ganros, not sure how to take him.
“He jests with you,” Krisnavn said. “He’s harmless. Though he does have a good skill at working skins. So, should we now get this started?”
“I have said, and will repeat it,” Krisnavn said, “I refuse to lead my men to certain death. But that’s what the Kerdolan expect of me, waiting along the Waters with their poisoned arrows posed, thinking they’ll kill the entire Saramequai Division of the Regiment. Which, of course, are mainly Clan Querkan. As are two of my captains.”
“I’m Clan Kairen,” Megovis explained to Detah.
Ganros laughed. “You think they’ll ask you first before taking aim? No, not that one, he’s Kairen; let him live.”
Krisnavn ignored him. “What digs into me most is knowing this plan was set before winter—it must have been. And there’s no denying it’s Galena’s work.”
“Are all Uestuädik mothers like that?” Detah asked, her frown heavy. “I mean, to want the death of their son?”
“Ah, the Alisime heart, as soft as their shirts,” Ganros said. “You don’t understand the Dal-feuds.”
“It is so,” Krisnavn said. “Clan Dragsin doesn’t like Clan Querkan, and it’s always been so. No, I cannot blame my mother. She was of an age with you when her father, needing to secure Clan Querkan’s Sahalian metals, offered her as wife to King Gleän’s son Geöntus. My father. But at that time Geöntus hadn’t been chosen as king, so that was no incentive to her. She was simply a young Uestin woman raised in the Dal ways, always obedient to her father. She was that obedient it didn’t matter that she loathed Geöntus from the start. And because we were his children, and she resented the getting of us, she swamped us with loathing. Though I will say, she did like being his queen.”
“So much so she won’t relinquish the name,” Biadret added.
“But is she not pleased?” Detah asked. “To have two sons Saram Chosen.”
“Saram Chosen, maybe, but also Clan Querkan,” Krisnavn said. “No, my brother’s rule ends summer-next and my guess is the new king will be from Clan Dragsin.”
“The talk is Genutos,” Ganros said. “They say he’s sequestered with the truvidiren, even now.”
“Her brother’s son,” Krisnavn explained.
“But Saram chooses,” Detah objected. “Thrice Chosen. Queen Galena might hope but she can’t do more.”
“Oh, Saram chooses,” Megovis said, vigorously nodding. “But it’s for the truvidiren then to recognise whatever the mark. No, Buttercup, stories abound of false kings. Trained, accepted, but then their rule fails. Lacking in strength, the people won’t follow, then demons invade. Then a true king must be found, and he kills the false king. Ask your brother; all poets know the songs.”
“Mistakes, I understand,” she said. “It happens with eblann. But you’re talking of Clan Dragsin deliberately supporting the wrong one.”
Krisnavn shrugged. “The new king will be Clan Dragsin, mark my words. But, as you said, I too am Saram Chosen. I could invade Dal Uest from my place of exile. I have with me one half of the Saramequai Division of the Regiment. I could kill their Dragsin king and take his rule. The clans would declare for me. There’s been increasing support for Clan Querkan since the Uissid’s Judgement.”
“But you wouldn’t.” Detah knew, if that had been his intent he’d not have bothered to ride the bounds.
He laughed. “See, already she knows me better than does my own mother. No, Detah, I would not. But my mother has never taken the time to know me. She rather would listen to Dragsin talk. And to Clan Dragsin I’m . . . you could say, a big bee in their plans—in her plans.”
“And Glania’s wedding?” Detah asked. Markon Glania had told her of Queen Galena’s involvement in that. ”Without the wedding there’d have been no attack along the Waters. No diversion to Isle Ardy. No stirring the Ulvregan traders. No ambush, no massacre. No need of you to avenge your kinsmen. Peace would have remained without that wedding. Yet it doesn’t seem right, when Queen Galena’s own sister’s son was killed in it.”
But it seemed no one cared to answer her, only Biadret with scornful grunt.
Then Megovis said, in an almost mumble, “I doubt that promise ever was made.”
“It was a drunken moment if it happened,” Megovis added. “He’s my uncle, though by his first wife, but in those days I knew him well. No, he would not have promised her the day she was born.”
“You’ve said nothing before,” Krisnavn said.
“What was I to say? He’s your kin closer than mine.”
“Did no one ask him?” Detah said.
“I did,” Krisnavn said. “And he claimed not to remember. Besides, an elder now, his word won’t hold against the lore-men.”
“You’re saying this all hangs on Queen Galena’s word? That she’s the only one to remember it? Did she witness it, was she there?” Detah hadn’t thought to ask when Markon Glania told her the story. Now, after what Krisnavn just said, she was inclined to agree with Megovis: that such a promise never was made.
“This is tied up with Truvidir Yandros,” Krisnavn said, onto his feet and starting to pace. “Was him who saw that long-ago promise as Saram-sent. Our scouts had been everywhere, but not yet to Jitinnis. Now, in escorting Glania to Alisalm, reports could be brought. But that didn’t happen—only Glania’s, and she hadn’t been briefed. It wasn’t thorough at all, though she did say of the Ancients Land. In her opinion it was the most suitable. She just didn’t mention the snakes.”
“You’ll be given no other land,” Detah said. “You’ve ridden the bounds; you’ve seen how it is. There is none. And you’ll not be given the Freelands.”
“No, this Ancients Land is fine, it’ll suit.” But still he paced. She could see his agitation though he tried to cover it. She could see the slight twitch of his mouth as he chewed on his lip. He dropped to the stool again. “Mandatn,” he said bluntly. “What’s to be done with them?”
“I know what you say, it all points to Glontria,” Detah said. “But five of Mandatn’s sons died in that massacre. Glontria’s own son, too, Sapapsan’s trader.”
“Buttercup, it’s not just us thinking it,” Megovis said. “You reasoned it too. The Kerdolan have a terror of snakes and yet used viper venom. That wasn’t obtained by themselves. And they’re known to trade with the Gousen—with Clan Dragsin. So we’re back to Queen Galena, who has a sister at Mandatn’s Hold. And hey, what do we find? That Mandatn’s Hold sits square amongst vipers. Evidence stacked.”
“I just can’t see how it can be Glontria.”
“My mother tries to kill her son,” Krisnavn told her quietly. “So why wouldn’t Glontria try to kill hers?”
“Because this isn’t the Dal,” she said. “Besides, Mandatn’s Hold isn’t allied to just one clan or one tud. Your own brother, King Tanisven, is wed to one of their daughters. And one of their traders, now dead, has a Reumen wife. Glontria’s daughter, too, Didodana, was wed into Burnise’s Hold, and they’re more strongly allied to the Rizzoni than ever were Luktosn’s Hold. No, Mandatn’s traders don’t play that game.”
Krisnavn nodded. “You may have the right of it. Yet that venom came from there, there’s no denying. So, as of now, none of Mandatn’s kin are to know of our plans. Moreover, I want Mandatn’s traders kept away from their boats until this Kerdolan campaign is done.”
“I doubt Mandatn will be near to their boats,” Detah said. “Not now they’ve only old men—the younger are markons away in the Dal.”
“Asavin?” Krisnavn answered her.
“Aye,” she allowed. “But he trades only to the south, to the Lugisse. And you’ll not keep the news away from Mandatn. Amongst the Ulvregan, what one knows, all know. Aye, seven traders’ holds but all of one family.”
He nodded. “That is their strength, of course. So let me change what I said. I don’t want the Ulvregan to know of our plans. I don’t even want Mistress Drea to know them, though in part it cannot be helped.”
Detah laughed. “You want the impossible! What, there must be a quarter of your markons here are Ulvregan. How will you keep it from them?”
“You see?” Megovis said to Ganros. “This is why our commander keeps the eblan at his side. You and I wouldn’t dare to tell him he’s wrong, and he’s dreaming in what he wants. But here’s our sweet little buttercup, straight out with it.”
“You’re right,” Krisnavn said. “That is why she’s here. She sees, and she asks.”
“And she’s a sweet little buttercup,” Biadret said, quietly.
“Saram smiles upon buttercups,” Krisnavn answered him. “And upon us. The very need to protect Alisalm’s bounds provides our answer. How many stations? Biadret? Govvy?”
“Eight,” they said together.
“Eight. And we’ll divide the rest of the markons between the patrols. Make a note, there: while at their patrols, they can make a start on clearing the bound-tracks. Same for those posted at the stations.”
“Separate the men. Keep them ignorant by holding the bounds. Brilliant plan,” Ganros said with a flashed grin. He’d lost two front teeth, Detah noticed. “One question, Commander. Who fights the Kerdolan?”
“Oh, come, Ganros, you heard me. I won’t lead my men into a trap. Besides, why chop off the hands when we can axe-off the head?”
It seemed his captains did not understand, looking between them, then at Krisnavn.
“Detah, I see you nodding. You want to explain it?” Krisnavn asked her.
“Aye. See, unlike the Uestin, the Kerdolan have no king. They have what they call the Head of Kerdol, who dwells on the fabulous isle of Liënershi.”
So Krisnavn is plotting a plan? But does he really intend to the kill the Head of Kerdol—Kared, also known as the Queen of the Kerdolan?