Something a little different
The woman lay on the straw, eyes wide, shoulders shivering. She revived a little to drink. Kneeling beside her, he noticed that her teeth were sound.
What is such a woman doing, deep in the Haymonese countryside, without servants?
“You’re safe here, madam. Please rest. I am Meriden, steward of this estate. What is your name?”
She swallowed, staring upwards. A pigeon sat on a beam above them, jerking its head and fluffing feathers. “Upali. Upali of – it doesn’t matter.”
“Where have you journeyed from? D’you have friends or kindred near here, to help you?”
“Kin.” A grunt. “Curse them, all of them.”
Meriden blinked. She turned her head (with pain, he thought) and stared at his pale-skinned but otherwise very ordinary face. Her eyes were dark.
“I can see your soul,” she said. “You have a sad soul.”
You are a strange woman, Upali. This is going to disrupt my whole day.
“I need a priest, or someone who can write.” She stopped to cough, and her body rattled. “There are words. Words for the great ones at Vach-roysh.”
“I can write for you,” he said soothingly, and drew out parchment and pen, to prove it. But she wasn’t looking at him; she was staring at the pigeon.
Then, softly, “I saw their deaths, Abbos and Rosior. I saw it, and I spoke it, and they died. And now – I have seen. Write,” and she was commanding a servant.
Meriden was a servant, and so he wrote. Her voice was slow and thin, and sometimes she stopped to cough, but every word was deliberate.
“To the hall with six flames
Call the great of the nine
For an heir to the King;
They will seek for a sign.
From the north see a wife,
From the south see a son;
And the second will rule
When the counting is done.
There is hate, there is death,
I feel fear, I see blood,
But one has stooped low,
Raised a bloom from the mud.
Bowing down to be raised
For the Dream, and God’s law.
But the sheep, they all wait
For mild peace or grim war.”
The voice stopped. As he was writing the last of this nonsense, he heard the door open behind him, and the light was blocked by shadow.
His lady pushed gently past him, knelt, and took the woman’s hand. She spared Meriden a glance, and he tried to say She’s very ill, and perhaps mad, without words. Aloud, “Her name is Upali.”
“Madam, I am Talinti of Lithermayg. I’m sorry to find you sick, but I’ve sent for a physician. Can you eat?”
Upali stared at the other woman, perhaps a decade older and glowing with health. If she saw Talinti’s soul also she didn’t mention it. She lifted a weary finger and gestured to his parchment. “The words. They must go to Vach-roysh. They must -” Her breath wheezed.
“My lady,” whispered Meriden, “I think we may need a priest.”
His mistress nodded sadly. Then she too looked over at his writing. For a moment, he wished he’d hidden it away. But that would have been a betrayal of duty, and now in any case it was too late.
He was fairly sure that those words would be trouble.
As the more astute of you will have guessed, the above is part of the first chapter of “The Tenth Province of Jaryar”, the second Tale from Ragaris, due out in December.
Love from the PPI Blogger/part-time author