Tag Archives: menhir

Banner of the Hawk 52

Leaves of newborn spring adorned the trees. The sun was visible now and again amongst low lying cloud banks. The manorhouse was just visible, half a mile away. Marquart was off supervising the building of the Citadel; Tidac had gone with Conger to a small complex of corrals and sheds where the kakais were enjoying their spring pasture, and gaining back the weight they had lost during the lean days of winter.

Grooms were cleaning and currying in the shed; the air was filled with the sweet, pungent scent of kakais. Tidac sat on top of the rail fence, intensely silent.

Small, quick and gray, grizzled and bent, Conger reminded Tidac of a mouse, wary from many encounters with cats. At the siege of Port Cantor, he had been old for a warrior; now he was just old

Conger moved about a proud and lovely kakai, sweeping the tight pelt with brushes from her pointed nose and flaring ears, which the animal lowered for grooming, across her high shoulders and down her flanks. The kakai’s brush tail whipped in pleasure; her brown and cream stripes glowed with vitality. She was Encaritremanta, the Cloud Lady, named for the Comanyi goddess who had become the Blossom of the Flower of the Waning Day.

“How goes the morning, Lordling?” the old man asked. Tidac turned his impassive gaze on Conger. He said nothing. This habit was disconcerting to many and led them to think him stupid. Conger was neither disconcerted not misled. Whistling tunelessly, he turned back to the Lady, rebraiding her mane into a complex macramé net. Sunshine and the smell of dung impinged upon Tidac as if from a great distance and he sat statue still, his mind wandering far from his body.

The soft clip-clop of hooves sounded from the forest nearby as a mount and rider came into view. Working his way from tree to tree he approached, keeping cover between him and the manorhouse, but not sneaking so blatantly as to appear suspicious. The rider was a big, hard man with shaggy hair and beard. His eyes moved incessantly, missing nothing. There was the look of a fugitive about him, yet mixed with a certain confidence. Obviously, he was an old hand at going unseen in the midst of his enemies. Even Tidac seemed to be interested. Then he came out of the shadows at the edge of the forest and sunlight fell full on his face.

“Good morrow, Conger.” His pleasant voice carried no further than the corrals. “How lies your world?”

Tidac studied man and mount. The kakai’s brown and cream stripes were smudged with dust and sweat to a ground color of uniform tan. The mane was sheared off close in the manner of a dray beast and the saddle was much worn. Whatever gay paint had originally covered it was long since abraded away. Worn, unpainted leather boots housed the man’s feet to the knees and then, surprisingly, instead of leggings of wool he wore short leather trousers which covered only from waist to crotch, leaving his hairy thighs bare. His tunic was dark green, sweatstained, and on his head he wore a bowl shaped cap sewn of multiple layers of leather. A sword hung at his leg and a bow and quiver were strapped to the saddle. Nowhere about his person was there any hint of shiny metal or bright color.

All this told Tidac it was Melcer, but he would have known him disguised as a priest. To the boy’s eyes and to his ai, he was a twin of his father.

“What would you have me say?” Conger was furious. “You know I have to report seeing you. Why are you here? Some thought you dead, and all hoped we would not see you again, even when we hoped you lived. Why? There can be no profit in your returning. All you can do is overturn hopes of peace.”

“That is why I have come.”

“Explain.”

Melcer’s eyes speared Conger. “Does a servant demand explanation from his master?” more Monday

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Banner of the Hawk 51

“Is there any reason why this one’s death should endanger my son’s survival?”

“No. Rather the opposite; he . . .”

Marquart dragged Weikata’s body half off the table and pinned his chest into the crook of his left arm. He gripped Weikata’s head with both hands and twisted. Veins stood out in Marquart’s forehead and his neck muscles bulged momentarily. Then they clearly heard the grinding crunch as Marquart shattered Weikata’s spine.

Marquart released him and the overbalanced body slid off the table into an untidy pile. Marquart motioned to Clevis and said, “He is not to be enreithed. Burn him!”

Then he turned back to Dymal as if their conversation had not been interrupted and asked, “What have you done for the boy and what more can you do?”

Dymal swallowed heavily and said, “I removed his memory of the incident. Tomorrow he will wake knowing nothing of today, or even the last several weeks. That is only a temporary expedient, however. This incident has to be faced. I have to bring him slowly through it, and help him place it in perspective.”

“Why you?”

“Because I am the only one in the Valley with the skill to do it, and it needs to be done quickly.”

“But if it were not done, would it not be as if the thing had never happened?”

Dymal shook his head. “No. He has to face it.”

“I will consider it,” Marquart said, but Dymal feared it would never be done.

# # #

Marquart carried Tidac to his room, undressed him, and placed him in his bed. He stood for a long time looking down at him. A strange child; so everyone thought. Marquart found him less strange than they. The impassive face and silences that made others wonder, did not seem odd to Marquart. He was only what Marquart had taught him to be.

He had not trusted Weikata, but he had needed someone who could train his son in the ways of ai. He had never fully trusted Baralia, but he had followed her advice when she said Melcer was his enemy.

He gritted his teeth. His stomach tightened and his fists clenched. Great spasms of anger moved uselessly through him, with no outlet.

He had never really trusted any man or woman, but he had always trusted himself. Now even that was shaken.

16.

Marquart had begun the Citadel as a refuge for himself and his son in a world he distrusted. Now that general distrust had come to focus on one face — Melcer’s — and Marquart drove his builders with redoubled ferocity. Nothing could be done well enough, or quickly enough. He fired his master builder twice, and rehired him twice. Nothing satisfied him.

Tidac did not remember the night of Weikata’s death, nor any of the things Weikata had taught him, nor even that the priest had ever existed. That was good enough for Marquart, but Branbourn and Clevis discussed it privately and worried. To the other servants, the boy seemed the same — withdrawn and just a little dull — but now he did not even show his inner life to Branbourn or to Clevis.

Winter passed into spring. The Citadel moved toward completion and the Valley moved through the normal routine of the passing year. Gradually, Melcer’s threat moved from immanence to a vague maybe-so. more tomorrow

Banner of the Hawk 50

Dymal came up from deep meditation as the scream tore through him, and he knew instantly that it was Tidac. He held perfectly still for a space of time, but there was nothing more. The scream had been cut off at the source. Unkinking himself from mehakan, he called for an acolyte to saddle his mount.

# # #

Dymal dropped down from his kakai and strode into the manorhouse. He carried his wand of office in his right hand, glowing slightly, and the servants drew back. He followed the stairway and hall to Weikata’s room. He needed no guide; the stench of power in the air led him directly to his goal.

The boy had been placed against the wall, but he was unresponsive. Marquart knelt on one side of him with Clevis on the other. Dymal passed his wand before the boy and Marquart swatted it aside, ignoring the burst of sparks when his untuned flesh touched the priest’s wand. “Rem’s balls,” he snarled, “what are you doing here? Get out!”

“If you want the boy to die, stop me. Otherwise, let me do what I can.”

Dymal passed his wand on either side of the boy’s head, then laid his bare palm flat on his forehead. He frowned deeply, and shook his head. He pulled a runeboard from the bag slung over his shoulder, along with his bag of counters.

“What are you doing?” Marquart demanded.

“Before I can help your son,” Dymal replied, “I have to know what happened here.”

Weikata lay stretched out on a table. His limbs were as stiff as a corpse found in a snowbank, but his chest still rose and fell. Marquart saw that Dymal’s eyes had lingered on the other priest. He said, “Weikata was the cause of this, wasn’t he?”

“I think so. Let me find out.” Dymal held the counters in his hands and closed his eyes, concentrating on the power surging around him, drawing a bit of it into the counters he held. He cast them down and looked long at the result.

Finally, he grunted and turned to Tidac. He placed his right hand on the boy’s forehead and his left hand on his heart. After twenty minutes of intense concentration and murmured spells, he sat back. Tidac had lost his glassy stare and lay back now in what appeared to be natural sleep.

“What happened,” Marquart demanded. For once his voice lacked the brittleness of command; it contained only the concern of a parent.

“Why do you have to ask me?” Dymal replied, his voice full of anger. “You were a commander of a thousand. You know how to read men. Weikata is a rapechild; he is half-Dzikakai in a world that hates and fears the Dzikakai. You can imagine what his life has been like. And your son is a nexus of power.”

“So you said before.”

“Aye, so I said. But did you listen? Weikata was put in charge of a child of power, and the temptation to try to control him was too great.”

“You knew this, and you did not warn me!”

“How could I know? You brought Weikata in without consulting me. I never saw him before today. But you should have known better than to put your son into the hands of someone like him.”

Marquart rose roughly to his feet and stood over Weikata, saying, “He did this to my son?”

“No. Weikata had no power to do this. He released power that was in your son. Tidac did this to both of them, in an untrained reflex.”

Marquart’s voice was very calm. “Senior, is there any way in which this one’s life is tied to the life of my son, or reason why this one’s death should endanger my son’s survival?” more tomorrow

Banner of the Hawk 49

Every day, Tidac could feel the fear others radiated when he was near them.

Not Branbourn or Clevis; in them he felt only affection. Marquart was beyond the boy’s understanding, but as far as he understood his father, he feared him. Since the fiasco at Port of the Gull, Marquart was a seething mass of anger and frustration, waiting to be released. Tidac avoided his father whenever he could.

Baralia radiated hatred, and Weikata radiated hunger, so Tidac did not answer the priest’s question.

Weikata shrugged and changed the subject. For an hour, he explained some of the ways in which ai had been harnessed by dziais in the age of the Comanyi. Then he brought out his runeboard. Weikata spilled the counters out into his hand and made several passes over the board, then said, “Mehak, mehancas, asuras astoras.” It was a simple calling of power for the revelation of the state of the day. When the counters had fallen, he spent some time explaining their interpretation, pointing out the major blocs of influence and their interactions, and promising to explain more fully at a later time. Tidac studied the counters hungrily. This was a power that produced knowledge, and he wanted to know everything.

In the intensity of his concentration, he did not see the satisfaction steal over Weikata’s face.

Weikata was a priest of the Remsept. Though Rem had died at the hands of the Shambler, he was still worshipped by the old guard. Weikata represented one of the newer, fiercer factions that had gone over to the worship of the Shambler. A failed coup in his home menhir had sent him out into the world seeking employment.

At their first meeting, Weikata had known that Marquart was an unawakened dziai. It was clear as well that the boy’s power outstripped his father’s, and Weikata had hungered to tap that ai for his own use. Whenever the boy left after one of their sessions together, Weikata cast mandalas, drawing on the ai which remained where the boy had sat, and was amazed.

Now, Weikata swept the counters together and began to move them slowly in the air, intoning under his breath. Tidac suddenly said, “Let me try.”

Weikata passed the counters to him. From the moment his fingers touched them, Tidac knew that was a mistake. A force within him urged him to hurl them across the room.

Weikata said, “You need no spell. Say your name over the counters and cast them down.”

The boy whispered, “Tidac Wyrd s’Marquart,” and released the counters. They fell with a rush, and every counter stuck in place on the board.  Seventy-one counters on seventy-one spaces.  A full mandala.

Weikata jerked upright with a gasp. He had never seen a full mandala. No priest anywhere had ever seen one. In most castings, most of the counters bounced away from the board and fell around it.

In the heart of the heartstar lay the counter Firedrake, Tidac’s kladak, although he did not know it yet. Every aspect of Tidac’s past and future, his character and his fate, were displayed for those who could read. To Weikata, it was power beyond his dreams.

To Tidac, the secretive, it was the ultimate betrayal of his privacy. He reached out to scatter the pattern but Weikata grabbed his arm, pushing him to the floor while he moved hungrily to gaze at the treasure that lay before him.

Tidac saw the hunger in his face and knew instinctively that this mandala would give Weikata dominance over him. Power came up out of him, from those deep wells of ai which Hea had foreseen before his birth, filling the room with an aura of shock and light. The boy harnessed the power as it occurred, shaping it in his hands and hurling it at Weikata.

Weikata froze in place, suddenly a marble statue without will or thought, and began to fall. The counters on the runeboard hurled themselves apart, in seventy-one discrete trajectories, half melting as they flew, peppering the room with softened blobs of brass.

And Tidac collapsed, insensible. more tomorrow

Banner of the Hawk 48

That was a clean and honest lie, the kind of lie any boy would tell his father.

In fact, Tidac found the Comanyi fascinating. Doorways to other worlds, dziais in fierce contention, drawing on the powers of the menhirs, vast battles, heroic and cowardly actions, clever strategies, cruel revenge. And then the apocalyptic tales of the Comanyi’s final years, when the Changer rose up against them and the Three-Who-Were-One wrestled peace from devastation by becoming the Flower of the Waning Day.

Not at all the practical things his father had brought Weikata in to teach him.

# # #

Once the sun was down, Tidac went to the room that his mother and father had shared. Now Weikata lived there with his books of scripture. He looked up as Tidac entered and said, “Greetings, Lordson.” He reached out his hand and they touched wrists in freeman’s greeting. As teacher, Weikata deserved Tidac’s obeisance. As his Lord’s son, Tidac deserved Weikata’s obeisance. This balanced out the honors.

Weikata reached out a pale and bony hand to retrieve the Sacrifice of the Timeless, one of the Comanyi scriptures. He laid it out on the table and gestured to Tidac to join him on the bench. They read, alternating verses, of Palacek’s dream of death on the eve of battle, and of it’s fulfillment.

Tidac looked sideways out of his eyes. He did not like being this close to Weikata. He did not like his cadaverous features or his cold, dead complexion. He chided himself for the feelings — there was nothing unnatural in Weikata’s looks. Thousands of his like were found throughout the Inner Kingdom, rapechildren from Dzikakai raids.

Still, there was more in Weikata than his heritage. Tidac could feel the turmoil within him as clearly as he saw Baralia.

There are men who are drawn to boys. Tidac knew this. Clevis had warned him of them, but this was not such a man. Tidac would have known. What drove Weikata was a different hunger, and an altogether unnatural one.

Tidac might have told this to Clevis, or Branbourn, or even to his father, but he was too accustomed to keeping silent.

“I chose this for our reading,” Weikata said, “because you said that you have had strange dreams of late.”

“Yes,” Tidac said, and did not elaborate. Tidac told Weikata things he did not tell others because it was the priest’s job to mold and train his ai. It was necessary, but the boy did not like it.

“Tell me about them.”

“They aren’t like other dreams,” Tidac said. “They are simple images. Nothing happens. I see faces, usually when I am just falling to sleep, or when I just begin to wake.”

“Are they always the same.”

“I’m not sure yet. Since you asked me to consider them, I have tried to remember. There are three women. One ancient, one of middling age, and one younger.”

“Kind, concerned, angry, threatening?”

“The younger one seems kind, the middle one is dangerous. The old one — I couldn’t tell what she was. She just looks on.”

Weikata asked, “Could it be that the Gods are looking down on you?”

“I hope not!”

“Why not?”

“I don’t like people looking at me. Even regular people.”

“Why?”

Tidac did not answer. Marquart had brought in this priest to teach him. It was his duty to cooperate, even though he disliked and faintly feared him. But there were things he would not say.

Every day, he could feel the distrust of those around him. His compact and massive body, his strength and his intelligence, far beyond his years, and his Marquart-like silences made everyone draw back. He could feel the fear they radiated when he was near them. more Monday

Banner of the Hawk 47

Once, early on, Marquart had begun to love Dael; but his suspicion had wounded that love and his execution of Dutta had killed it. Clevis had held him in respect, affection, and trust, but that had now turned to a brittle loyalty. All his wardens feared him. His men thought him narat. He had refused all of Dymal’s attempts at unsentimental fellowship.

There was only one human tie left to Marquart now, Tidac, and he did not understand his son at all.

# # #

Midsummer of the following year, in the evening after the day’s main meal, Tidac and Marquart stood watching the sunset on the rimwall of the manor house. Far out, miles southeastward, the Citadel was a black mass growing up against the sky. Marquart had spent the day there and now Tidac asked about it.

Pleased at his interest, Marquart replied, “It will only be a few months now until it is completed. The floors were finally pegged in last week, and the slate tiles should be up in another two weeks. The cook’s crew is filling the pantries. He says he will start his first cooking fires shortly.”

The boy nodded but made no reply. Marquart forbore comment. Tidac was approaching the ninth anniversary of his birth, but he looked years older. His skin and hair were dark, like his father’s. He was short and his body was massive with muscle — like his father’s. He was taciturn to the point of silence, like his father. But for all their similarities, the boy remained distant, ignoring Marquart’s attempts at camaraderie.

Like his mother.

What Marquart could not know was that he and Tidac were never alone.

Since that night at the Inn of the Falling Griffon, Baralia no longer made herself visible to Marquart. She had done all she could; it would have to be enough. Still, Marquart was her only tie to humanity so she was ever at his elbow though he never saw her.

Yet Tidac saw her. She was no longer a vague presence to the boy, but a fully fleshed, brown skinned, brown eyed woman, ever dressed in the same robe her body had worn as she lay waiting for enreithment. Tidac saw her with his eyes, heard her groans and sighs with his ears, and felt her malice and loneliness to the depths of his soul.

He recognized her uniqueness. He knew that there had never been another like her, and that her existence represented a terrible wrongness.

Whenever Marquart thought he and Tidac were alone together, and reached out to his son, Baralia stood with them radiating hatred. And Tidac, whom Marquart had taught to, “speak little, listen much, and confide in no one,” never told his father what he saw.

# # #

Marquart asked how Tidac’s studies were progressing. 

“Well enough,” the boy replied. “Weikata taught me the Firestarter spell last week and I have mastered it. I can bring up flames even from wet wood.”

Marquart smiled. “A good trick. I could have used it many times.”

“I could teach you.”

Marquart shook his head.

“I have memorized the Ved arcanus,” Tidac said. “It isn’t very long. Not like the Comanyi scriptures.”

“Has Weikata shown those to you?”

“Yes, but we don’t spend much time on them. What is the point of learning the genealogies of Gods who left a thousand years ago?”

That was a clean and honest lie. Baralia had nothing to do with it. It was the kind of lie any boy would tell his father. more tomorrow

Banner of the Hawk 46

They waited out the day and after nightfall had come again Lanti led Melcer down the back streets. They dodged around crates and bales, and through the manure pools below the animal pens. They followed a narrow shingle beach where a warehouse backed directly on the sea and the waves washed them to the waist at every step, threatening to drag them under.

They found a coracle tied at the end of the pier and in the dim moonlight Melcer could make out the shape of his ship.

As the pain had eased, Melcer had begun to remember Rondor’s death. He would have preferred the pain. Melcer had never been an easy man to tolerate, and Rondor had been his only friend. Now he was melancholy and subdued and Lanti clung to him tighter than ever. He took her in his arms and asked, “Did I please you, when we made love?”

They had not coupled. He had been too drunk. But she did not tell him that; she nodded her head and smiled. He broke her embrace and reached for his purse. “There is no way that I can thank you for saving my life, but at least take this.”

“What do you mean?” she snapped, stepping back. “I am going with you.”

For a moment he looked as if he were considering it. Then he shook his head and said, “It is impossible. On a ship you wouldn’t last five minutes.”

“I saved your life. You owe me this.”

Now the spell was broken, and his eyes had lost their tenderness. “No,” he said, “I cannot. I will return for you.”

“Liar! Breech-born pig! How many men do you think have made that promise? Take me with you now.”

“No,” he said, and cast off. She threw down the purse and shouted curses after him. She watched him all the way to his anchored ship, then turned back to Port of the Gull.

After she had picked up the purse.

15.

At first, Marquart blamed Baralia for all the things that had happened, but he could not lie to himself for long. Everything she had convinced him to do, he had done. He has said yes, when he could have said no. Whatever blame belonged to Baralia — and it was huge — ultimately Marquart was the one who had acted.

Ultimately, the blame was his.

Marquart came close to warfare with the city fathers of Port of the Gull, but they did not have the strength of will to stand against him. He had the Inn of the Falling Griffon torn down, brick by brick, beam by beam, and the bags of ashes sifted. There were human bones in the ashes, but none would have supported a frame so massive as Melcer’s.

Melcer had escaped. There was no other way to look at it.

Then came rage.

His own soldiers came to fear him, like Beshu’s soldiers had feared him. He had lost his reputation for cool and cunning. The tale of Marquart chasing though the street before the burning Griffon, slashing and screaming at the empty air, spread throughout the Valley. Sailors who had seen it happen spread the tale to other ports, and thus throughout the Inner Kingdom. Imbric, at Instadt, took comfort in it. He had been deeply shamed when Dael, his daughter, had run from her husband and her duties. This made her conduct seem less mad. Even Reece, who had remained faithful to his old commander despite his sister’s defection, now turned his face away.

Now those servants who had feared him somewhat, came to fear him greatly. Where he had growled, now he struck. Where there had been a glowering, dangerous patience, now there was no patience at all. more tomorrow