“Unquestionably. Those who hold land here have held it for generations. They are all intermarried. I am related to three I know of, which means I am related in some degree to everybody.”
“Dael, I need you to do something for me. Remember every face you see. Remember every name. Find out how many uncles and cousins are in each house and how many servants, and, if you can, how many serfs are in their fields.”
Dael’s face showed surprise. She said, “I don’t even know how many servants are in this house.”
It was quietly said, but she took it as criticism. She snapped, “Why do you need all this information?”
He leaned back and looked around. The servants had started to come in and prepare for evenmeal. Their brief time of privacy was nearly over. He noted Dael’s irritation and ignored it. “Because,” he said, “there are too many sitting at every table in this valley. The serfs can’t feed their masters and still feed themselves.”
“No one will leave. This is their home.”
“They will leave, or I will move them out. The only question is how many have to go from each warden’s house.”
Dael shook her head in disbelief. “Have you told them?”
“I have dropped hints. The wise know; Vesulan surely knows. The others didn’t hear me. But they will hear me.”
“After the feast.”
Four weeks after Midwinter, far across the Great Sea and far from Marquart’s worries about excess population and hungry serfs, Argat came to Bihag at Lyré’s invitation. From the fortress mountain Whitethorn where Hea Santala had waged a century of intermittent warfare against Rem Ossilo, and now waged it against the Shambler, he came. He rotated out of existence in Whitethorn and, borne by the mighty power of that place, rotated back into existence in the forest glade where Lyré dwelled.
As the lambent energies subsided around him, he stepped forward with a wary look around, always the warrior, and nodded to his mother. She kissed his cheek and took both his hands. As when he had stood with Argella watching the death of Rem Ossilo, an onlooker would have taken them for siblings.
“Thank you for coming,” Lyré said.
“I was surprised that you asked me. You never seem to need help.”
“Oh, I think I would have no trouble with this. I wanted you along to see what I see.”
Argat shrugged. “As you say, Mother. I trust your judgment, although I can’t see how the death of Beshu matters to us.”
“Beshu has always meant something to me. He might have been my brother, in a better world.”
When Rem had first cast him out, the Shambler had wrought harshly in the world, wandering the Inner Kingdom, the swamps of Renth, and the besh towers of Lankarea, searching for someone who could show him the keys to his heritage. He learned something from each of a dozen dziais. He learned of the sealed menhir gate to Lorric and made his first attempt to breach it. He learned of Whitethorn, and after months of effort, found his way through the fogs that surrounded it and made his way to the door of Hea’s redoubt. This was before Lyré and Argat were born, when Hea dwelled there alone with Argella.
Rem Ossilo had kept the Shambler so ignorant of his heritage that he did not even know who Hea Santala was. He only knew that she was a dziain, a woman of power. When he asked for tutelage, she offered prophesy instead, and took as her payment the human woman who accompanied him. more tomorrow