I probably should have posted this last weekend, but you folks know how busy I was. I have a few more installments to post of scenes already written before I have to start adding to them.
To Rule Mâvarin
Fragments from a Work in Progress
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2006 by KFB
As the Mâvarin naval galleon Azure plowed through the last hundred yards of foaming blue water to its dock in Linmar harbor, Lore got her first look at the delegation from Odamas.
Lore leaned forward at the wooden rail, trying to get a better view of the people she had spotted, the ones who didn’t look like sailors or military officers. There were five of them, standing quietly on the wooden planks, watching intently as the Azure slid into its berth: two middle-aged men, a woman of the same vintage, and a girl and a boy on the edge of adulthood. Their faces were impassive. Their tunics and cloaks were grey, and so was their hair, even the teenagers’.
Lore already didn’t like them. Such dour, colorless people made even grumpy Master Morilon seem fun by comparison.
“Is that the selmûn welcoming party?” Jere asked, pointing.
Lore was startled. She hadn’t heard her sister’s arrival beside her. Before she could answer, a series of creaks and groans announced the ship’s arrival at the dock. Sailors jumped from the ship to the dock, and tied half a dozen ropes to half a dozen poles. The Azure came to a sudden halt. Lore and Jere grabbed the rail more tightly to regain their balance. The sailors scurried about, finishing the securing of the ship, reporting to officers on shore, and folding down two gangplanks: a wide one for cargo, and a narrower one for officers and passengers.
The grey delegation didn’t move.
“Yes, that’s them,” Lore said disgustedly. “A duller group of people would be hard to imagine.”
“You haven’t even met them yet,” Jere said. “Give them a chance.”
Sunestri came toward them on his long legs, his curly blond hair and beard waving in the harbor breeze. “They’re ready for us,” he said. “Are you two ready to be diplomatic?”
“Of course,” Jere said.
“As I’ll ever be,” Lore said.
The sisters followed Sunestri down the gangplank. The teenaged selmûn girl started toward them, her face lit with a sudden smile, but was halted by a one-word warning from one of the men. The word was “Genva.” As sunlight caught the girl’s hair, Lore saw that it was actually more blonde than grey.
Time to go be diplomatic, Lore thought. Sidestepping Sunestri, she stood before the selmûn delegation and bowed formally. As she came up, she made eye contact with the blonde girl, and flashed her a friendly smile. The girl smiled back.
“Greetings to you all,” Lore said. “I am Lore Cheneli, eldest daughter of Archmage Marnestri of Mâton. This is my sister, Jere.”
“And I am Sunestri, journeyman adept to Archmage Marnestri,” Sunestri added. “We are honored to meet you all.”
The selmûnen bowed simultaneously—well, almost. The blonde girl was a fraction of a second behind the rest in starting her bow, a fraction of a second ahead of them in finishing it.
“Welcome to Mâvarin,” said the eldest of the men. “I am Lord Arlin Cados, Lord of Odamas by lineage and acclamation. Please allow me to present my wife, Shada (the older woman bowed again), my son Shari (the teenaged boy bobbed his head), my brother Gavin Cados and his daughter Genva.” Genva smiled at Lore. Lore smiled back.
“As Sunestri said, we’re honored and pleased to meet you all,” Jere said.
“How soon are we leaving for Odamas?” Lore asked.
“We shall depart from Linmar immediately,” Lord Arlin said. “We have two coaches waiting.”
“Excellent,” Sunestri said.
“Just let us collect our luggage, first,” Jere said. Lore could hear her sister’s nervousness, and was surprised that she’d spoken at all. Jere didn’t talk to strangers very often, except to say whatever propriety demanded.
“We will help you,” Shari said. He turned back toward the dock, and Lore saw that their luggage was already piled near the cargo plank. Shari and Gavin picked up Lore’s trunk, and Genva helped Jere with hers. Lord Arlin went to speak to the coach drivers. A few minutes later, they were on their way through the city of Linmar. Sunestri rode with Lord Arlin and his wife and son, leaving Lore and Jere to travel in the second coach with Genva and her father.
“How long does it take to get from Linmar to Odamas?” Lore asked.
“It takes five days if you take the Sea Road and don’t make daylight stops,” Genva said. Her father raised one grey eyebrow at her use of a contraction instead of whole words. “Stopping at Mâshelamar or Liftlabeth can add as much as another day.”
“We shall not be stopping at either of those places,” Gavin Cados said.
“Is there any reason we would want to do so?” Lore asked.
“I do not think you would want to visit Liftlabeth,” Genva said. “There is absolutely nothing of interest in that village. Mâshelamar is rather nice, though. It is historically important, of course, and a haven for the arts. My mother grew up there.”
“Where is she now?” Jere asked. “Back in Odamas?“
“No. She is dead,” Genva said. She said it matter-of-factly, as if reporting the demise of a rat or wild bird.
“She died of a fever three years ago,” Gavin added. “Not even our best healers could save her.”
“Oh!” Jere said. “I’m very sorry to hear that.”
Lore was curious about Genva’s mother, but under the circumstances it seemed a bad idea to question Genva directly about her parentage. Instead Lore asked, “Are there many selmûnen in Mâshelamar?”
Genva shook her head. “Hardly any, I think. My mother was not a selmûn, as you may have guessed. She was Lida Percal, a noblewoman of the Twelve Families.”
Lore knew then that she had been right to cultivate Genva’s acquaintance. “I’ve heard of the Percal familty. As I understand it, there is no finer lineage in Mâvarin.”
“The name Selevar is currently far more prominent than the names Percal and Cados,” Lord Arlin said.
“True,” Gavin Cados said. “Furthermore, every name is less important than the character and actions of the person to whom it refers.”
“Meaning that I have a lot to live up to,” Genva said with a smile.
“As do I,” Lore said sincerely. “Nearly every Archmage of Mâton since the Founding was an ancestor of mine. I must be proficient in both magic and politics to follow in their footsteps.”
Lord Arlin frowned. “It is our hope that you and your family embark now on a different path from that of your ancestors. Theirs led to centuries of strife between Mâton and Mâvarin. Yours may well lead to a new era, one in which our countries are finally united in the common cause of peace and understanding.”
Lore wanted to laugh aloud at the selmûn lord’s naïve idealism, but she kept her composure. “Yes, of course,” she said. Unlike her father, Lore had no illusions about the best way to restore peace between Mâton and Mâvarin. The Mâvarinû needed to be taught, by any means necessary, that their country was by rights a colony of Mâton, just as its non-magical inhabitants were meant to serve people of talent. It was a lesson Lore looked forward to teaching.