Banner of the Hawk 29

Dutta had felt Marquart’s displeasure before, at Midwinterfest, but now his anger was like a flame. Marquart had told him — had told them all — to clear out their households. It had seemed to unreasonable to take seriously.

But to threaten to remove him altogether from the only home he had ever known! That had been home to his father and his g’father before him. And to make that threat openly here, in his own hall, in the presence of his wife and children. To Dutta, it was world shaking. No one had ever threatened him so. He had not known, not at the bone where knowing is real, that such a threat was possible.

Marquart turned on his heel, and strode out of the house, calling for his kakai. Never mind the long cold ride. If he stayed here, he would kill someone. Probably Dutta.

Marquart was shaken. He had meant the things he said, but to have said them as he did, and where he did, and when he did was foolish. It was bad strategy. Marquart prided himself on forethought and cold consideration; where now was the warrior who had taken Port Cantor with cool efficiency, unhurried even by Limiakos himself?

He had acted like Beshu.

# # #

Baralia trembled at the outburst, clasped her translucent hands together, and almost whimpering with joy. At last. At last, a crack in the armor.

It was not just rage. It was not just that Limiakos had sent Marquart into exile and made him small. Marquart was a God, with all the power of a God locked up inside him, and he did not even know it. He was agemate to Argat. His mother had been human, his g’mother had been human, his g’g’mother had been human, but none of that human heritage had diluted his power. Rem’s blood ran in him, and the Shambler’s blood ran in him. Only his ignorance, caused and enforced by Hea Santala, kept him from his power.

That frustrated power was now threatening to burst into a flame of rage. And Baralia stood ready to fan that flame.

9.

Marquart’s child was born. Angels did not attend him, but his coming was widely known. 

Lyré in her glade cast mandalas in which the power of his ai threw all other forces into question. She watched the glowing sphere with awe and dawning hope. Hea Santala did the same, with anxious worry. Argella cast mandalas and hated the child at his coming, because he was of the sept of the Shambler, and because his power would be greater than hers — if he lived. Argat merely watched; he was learning to keep his own council.

Marquart paced the hall awaiting the outcome. He had banished everyone but Clevis, and even Clevis remained silent and out of the way of his pacing. Marquart tried to feel pity for his wife, tried to anticipate his son, tried to think of this as a transcendent moment when his life would expand and deepen. He could not.

Men marry and women bear children. That was universal. But for Marquart, it would be another descent into the ordinary.

Dymal cast his mandalas in the center of the menhir, but his mind was not on his work, nor on the coming child. Taipai had failed these past months, and now all the details of the temple were in Dymal’s hands. Every day Taipai grew weaker, and every day Dymal realized more deeply how much like a father the old priest had become.

When the child emerged screaming into the world, Dymal knew. And the menhir, which had no mind, knew. Dymal could feel an uneasiness surging through the insensate stones. And he felt a calling from within the temple annex. more tomorrow

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