This is the last of the already-typed draft for this prequel, at least in the main Word document. A week from now the real work begins.
To Rule Mâvarin
Fragments from a Work in Progress
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2006 by KFB
The carriage ride from Linmar to Odamas was both tedious and eye-opening. Lore had always known that Mâvarin was bigger than Mâton, but she was not prepared for the kinds of distances the Mâvarinû took for granted. It took three days just to reach the main northbound road, the same amount of time it took to cross Mâton on horseback—not that people used such mundane methods on Mâton very often. The selmûn carriage passed over a seemingly endless succession of rolling hills, broken only by the distant view of blue-grey mountains to the west.
Lore wished that their itinerary would take them somewhere half as interesting as those mountains looked. It did not. The northbound road that the one from Linmar dead-ended into was broader and better traveled, but not especially intriguing. It ran alongside a broad, rather muddy river, intermittently covered with barges. On both sides of the river were more hills and more valleys, covered with forests of maple and beech and sycamore, with cherry and later apple orchards, with cotton and later corn, with cows and with sheep. Occasionally the travelers came to a town or village, but mostly the land was rather empty of people, and very green. Lore wasn’t accustomed to seeing so few people in the course of a day, so many growing things and so few outcroppings of bare rock.
“Is all of Mâvarin like this?” she asked Genva one afternoon. They were riding past a small forest that lay to the west of the river Misis, and acre after acre of wheat fields to the east of it.
Genva looked puzzled. “Is all of Mâvarin like what?”
“Green and growing and empty. Your country seems to have an abundance of food, and hardly anyone to eat it. I doubt that we’ve seen a dozen people all day.”
“Oh! If that is what you mean, then the answer is no. Except for the outskirts of Linmar, you have not seen a real Mâvarin city yet; but we do have some. There are plenty of people to eat the food, I assure you.”
“Is all of your land this conducive to farming and ranching?” Lore asked. “Mâton is mostly rock.”
Genva shrugged. “Well, there are mountains, of course. Nothing grows on those but trees and grasses, and in some places it is bare rock. Even the land elsewhere in Mâvarin is not as good for crops as you may think. The soil to the west is largely clay, and near the sea it is mostly sand. Up around Odamas, the soil is full of stones. Our farmers work very hard to make things grow.”
“No charms?” Jere asked. “No selmûn magic?”
“Selmûn magic can only encourage growth, not make it possible,” Genva said. “The land must still be plowed and seeded, or nothing will happen. Plows do not cut through rock, and charms do not haul away the stones. However, some farmers do use charms to prevent frost damage, or to help a horse and plow cut into the soil more easily.”
“Most farmers cannot afford such things,” Gavin Cados said. Genva’s father had been relatively quiet during the journey, but he spoke up now. “Many would not use magic of any sort, regardless of the cost.”
“Why not?” Jere asked.
“People in this country tend not to trust magic or magicians,” Genva said, “particularly from Mâton.”
“That is especially true when crops and livestock are involved,” Gavin said. “They fear to eat enchanted food, lest they become enchanted themselves.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Lore said. “The enchantment on a plow or a field, or even a bag of seeds, wouldn’t carry over to the harvested crop, let alone the people who ate it.”
“Perhaps not, under normal circumstances,” Gavin said. “Can you swear to me, however, that no mage can, if he or she wishes, place a spell on a farmer’s field that will indeed affect the people who eat the resulting crop?”
Lore had no intention of admitting this was possible—which it was—but Jere was less circumspect. “I suppose it could be done,” she said doubtfully, “but it would be difficult to set up, and impossible to determine ahead of time exactly who the final subjects of the spell would be. Well, maybe if it was a small family garden you’d know, but it would be equally obvious who cast the spell. I can’t see anyone bothering with anything so impractical.”
“I can,” Genva said, “if the magician does not care who gets hurt. You all should know, if you do not know already, that there is great mistrust among the people of Mâvarin toward all magic and its practitioners. Their concerns are somewhat justified,” she added, raising one eyebrow slightly, “given past conflicts and present abuses, but they do not always have a rational basis.”
“In other words, ordinary people fear what they don’t understand,” Lore said. “That doesn’t surprise me. But you said they distrust all magic and magicians. Does that mean they don’t trust selmûnen, either?”
“Not all selmûnen do magic, and all of our magic is benign,” Genva’s father said. “Nevertheless, many of the King’s People do not trust us. We are considered meddlers, even spies. In many communities our people are barely tolerated.”
Lore was surprised by the candid admission. “Then I can see why you might seek an alliance with Mâton,” she said. “You have much to gain politically if this alliance works out.”
Gavin shook his head. “I think you misunderstand. The alliance is to be between Mâton and Mâvarin as a whole, not between Mâton and the selmûnen. We do not seed political gain for ourselves, but peace and security for the country.”