Gladei and Thenson


Blog What I'm writing My fiction

This is a Fels tale, and part of a longer work. Stands by itself well, I believe.


In the middle evening, Clanmaster Thenson Trowheald entered the Trowheald Tavern. The weather had cleared and the moon sailed high in the eastern aspect, the air was odorous with the tang of rain, as if a purge had been sent through the sky in a vain attempt to rid Fels of the Canal Society. He had come alone to the Tavern, his brother Taunil had left earlier to meet his companions who would undertake the task of seizing Gladei’s letters, Thenson believed one of these people to be Aludra Dusadea, a sometime consort of Taunil’s and a known Dyne.

How they would enter the Tavern and perform the appointed task was unknown to Thenson. He didn’t care to learn, a fleeting idea came to him and vanished just as swiftly, he felt like taking Gladei from here and running with her, somewhere far and abroad. He could not help but sense her life was imperilled, all due to a mischievous impulse, or was it a Trowheald trait of permanent mistrust and suspicion?. By extension, that trait could be applied from the lowest Ipty beggar to the Hielachs themselves, whatever the cause, the result was apocalypse, knowledge of things far and beyond his ken. As such, it was a troubled Clanmaster who entered the main door of the Trowheald Tavern this evening. He handed his rapier over to a cloak attendant and paid the boy a keeping fee, he pulled back his hood and entered the noisy common room.

Thenson swiftly took stock of the room, Gladei had not yet come on stage, but her accompanists were preparing their instruments and the audience had shifted their chairs and stools closer to the stage in readiness. Thenson swallowed down the fear that the letters had been missed and Gladei had fled or was taking more dire action, he’d explained to Taunil exactly how he’d found them and trusted his brother to replace them with equal facility. Thenson bought a drink from Waethe, one of the Tavern’s stewards, and resisted attempts to be drawn into small talk with the man. Armed with a wooden mug of fenny, he took a seat at a rear alcove and waited expectantly for his lover to make an appearance.

It was someone totally unexpected that turned up. Thenson sat up startled as a tall and muscled man wearing a suave blue cotton blouse sat across his table. Omis nodded to Thenson. “I thought I’d find you here, can’t resist the girl and her voice can you?”

Thenson warmly clasped his uncle’s hand. Omis smiled shrewdly and gestured to the accompanists. “Maybe you should get up and tell these people what a wonder Gladei is.”

Thenson laughed, despite himself. “I’m sure they know.”

Omis never missed a thing, being a mercenary, it was often a fatal outcome to miss any detail. “I take it there is strife here?”

Thenson shrugged. “There could be. I can’t say much, but there is something definitely afoot, yes.”

“Enough to get your brother out of doors anyway, I won’t ask, Thenson, but I expect you to tell me what's going on here in your own time.”

“No time like now, I guess. I have discovered things about Gladei, things I, can’t understand, in essence, I am being observed by her for an antemery wizard. So, Taunil isn’t as sly as he thought?”

Omis looked deeply into Thenson’s eyes. “Seems like our tasks may run parallel. Essentially, that is why I’m here, why I was here earlier today. I have accepted a commission to track down a fellow and bring him before Kelnastim, a fellow whose interests run in discord with the way our ancient lords would like it. Gladei is involved, Thenson. So, maybe you might tell me more about being spied on by wizards.”

Thenson looked despondently at the flooring of the common room. The joviality of the patronage here didn’t reach him. What more was there to this? Thenson doubted his sanity for a moment. Glumly, he told Omis about the letters. Omis listened intently, with the serene, yet hard, unmoving expression Thenson had always known.

Omis sat back and looked down into his mug of beer when Thenson had finished. “Well, others are involved, the terms of my commission only allow me to be vague. I will say a name: Gaulvane, and I will mention a profession: jade trader.”

“Jade? A Dialesian?”

“A pretend Dialesian, nephew of mine. The man is as much a Dialesian as me or you. I can’t be more specific, but he is my subject. Tonight, I expect him here, so does someone else. That plan of your brothers will fail, Thenson, and your hand will be forced, and Kelnastim will not be happy. You have that vial Nuala gave you?”

Thenson looked up in shock. “Yes, of course, but how by fucking Elesmis did you know that?”

Omis grinned. “You are still capable of being surprised, I would like it Thenson, please.”

Thenson numbly handed over the vial of oyria to Omis. “Why will Taunil fail?”

His mercenary uncle sighed aggrievedly. “Once again allow me to be vague. Taunil will not find the messaging device, it is being carried. Thenson, I must go, you may warn Taunil if you like of what I have said, he’s in the taproom with Alos, Gladei will be on in ten minutes, you have time, stop your brother from his search and things should go well. Tomorrow at noon meet me at my home on Three Meanings. I’ll be more clear to you then,” Omis rose from his seat and drained his mug with a flourish.

“Nuala is a fine woman, Thenson, she detested the idea of going to the Castle today, but I insisted she meet you, see the Clanmaster for herself. You made an impression. I’m glad it turned out that way. I leave you.” Omis surveyed the common room briefly and made his way out. Thenson sat in stupefaction for a while before leaping to his feet. He moved through the crowd to the bar and asked the overworked Waethe to allow him down in the taproom. Thenson descended the stairs, hearing avid voices. He found his brother in conference with Alos, the tavern keeper. Standing aloof to them was the calm person of Aludra Dusadea. Thenson took note of her. She was a handsome woman in her early forties, small, of a height of about Thenson’s shoulder. Her clear green eyes regarded Thenson blandly. She wore a grey gown hanging to her ankles tied at the waist with a braided sash. Her hair, flecked honey-blonde hung to her shoulders where she had it cut straight at the back. Thenson bowed to her and approached the questioning figure of his brother.

“Go home Taunil. Don’t do it, I’ve had word you won’t find what you’re seeking. “

“You’ve had word?”

“Yes, Omis. He knows what’s going on, so does Kelnastim apparently, we would be interfering in something bigger.”

“The Hielachs, always the Hielachs,.” murmured the soft voice of Aludra.

Taunil ignored her. “I told you Ydrys knows all secrets. So, now your lover is deodand in the eyes of the Hielachs.”

Thenson shook his head. “No, Omis is chasing someone else, a jade trader.”

“Jade trader?” asked Alos. “I’m housing one at the moment. Damn Dialesians, at least they pay.”

Thenson laughed acerbically. “He won’t like the way he pays to my uncle, he’ll like Kelnastim even less, that’s all, Taunil, your job is nugatory now.”

Taunil nodded. “And how will you deal with Gladei? I still have these letters.”

“Give them to me, I will replace them, she’ll be on stage in a moment, Alos, can I have her room key?”

Alos fumbled in his pockets and gave Thenson the key. Aludra came and stood beside Taunil. “Clanmaster, I advise you to exercise care, the woman is an accomplished odylicist, and her faith to her creed is stronger than her faith in you, despite what these letters may imply, she has no suspicion of your deed today, I can sense this, however, she has sensed me, she doesn’t know me, but she knows someone who practices the craft I do is nearby and has probed. She will be curious about this and her attention will be keener. This fellow, this jade trader, is also adept in this craft, I pity both of them. They will suffer due to the jealousies of Ydrys and his senescent hierophants, neither mean us harm, “

Thenson understood Aludra’s sympathies, truth to tell, he could not equate the concept of harm with Gladei in any way, her faith in her religion was stronger? Thenson glowered at the taproom floor, the end seemed very much at hand, he heard a clamour of cheering and hand clapping and knew his lover had come on stage. He also knew he she would be looked for for him in the audience, triple damnation!

“Alos, can you get your cloak boy to fetch my rapier, then, can I leave through the barrel room door? I will get into her room through a hallway window. Hopefully, I will neither have to explain my presence in her room, nor use my rapier.”

Alos left the taproom hurriedly. Aludra glanced at Taunil and both made to leave by the barrel room door. Thenson felt alone and awkward. He followed Taunil. “Leave some of the soldiery here and inform them I’m present and to be alert for my call of danger.”

Taunil nodded. He took Aludra’s hand and left the Tavern, not before Aludra cast a backward glance full of equal concern and mystery at him. Presently Alos came with his rapier, Thenson stood still and listened to the voice of Gladei. Rather than thrilling him, it saddened him, her voice seemed plangent with echoes of a finality or of hopes destroyed. He breathed in deeply and made his way out to the rear of the Tavern. He noticed soldiers of Trowheald stationed covertly, his mercenary-trained eyes spotting them and the positions they took. He made a deft signal to them and made his way to the side, the window of his entry was ten feet off the ground, Thenson pulled a number of empty barrels over to the place and, with utter caution, edged up to the sill.

Thankfully, the window had not been locked and he eased it up without difficulty. A swift glanced proved nobody was about and he slipped through the window like a spectre. He cursed himself for not asking Alos which room the jade trader was lodged, he did not want to be surprised, especially by a person endowed with sorcerous ability.

Thenson spent an indecisive moment studying the doors and the methods of approach, all the time Gladei’s beautiful voice echoed through the Tavern, that and her music would disguise part of any action he had to take, his non-appearance in the audience would give her pause as well, she must be pondering his moves as she sang, he recounted they had not left on amicable terms, something which made his guts seethe, perhaps, she did not expect to see him again. Thenson almost fainted at that thought and he had to breathe evenly to concentrate on his task. He lounged beside Gladei’s door, every sense heightened, with adroit movements he bent and listened at her door for a long, nervous minute. Silence, he gave a silent prayer to Chon and fit the key in her lock. He loosened the rapier in its scabbard and turned the handle slowly, expecting to be met with either sword point or magic.

He had no defence to the latter, he opened the door slowly, and stood beside it, expecting again to see violence come past, nothing. He peered about the corner and looked in to her darkened room. Nothing. He crept within and closed the door behind him, taking the key out. He locked the door from inside. He squatted, rapier drawn and edged over to her bedside lamp, the moon’s glow cast a pale and muted light through the room, but it was insufficient for the task Thenson required. With care he lit the lamp, half expecting to see a score of ruffians awaiting him. Nothing. The lamp lit up her room softly and Thenson paused and recalled the joyous moments of happiness he had spent here, he was aware that an observer outside the Tavern could see the light and he worked swiftly.

He opened the drawer with the point of his rapier, wary of traps, nothing, once more. Like Omis had averred, she knew nothing of his discovery, yet, this was Myre and dismal revelation awaited the ingenuous. He waited several, interminable seconds and reached inside for the box. With gratification he pulled it out, he opened it and replaced the letters as he had found them.

To an ordinary person, nothing had occurred here, yet Gladei was not an ordinary person, still Gladei sang downstairs and Thenson found he had to fight the distraction, he replaced the box and shut the drawer. Prudence dictated he leave and go and watch her sing. Curiosity dictated otherwise, with alacrity he rummaged through her copious belongings, finding nothing more than clothing and cosmetic material, he found her case of tabacits and resisted the urge to destroy them. He smiled crookedly to himself, he even found articles of his own clothing, neatly cleaned and folded, her bath chamber yielded nothing, Thenson studied her peculiar circular bed, he swept underneath it with his rapier and pushed a small velvet case out, about five inches square in dimension. He ignored it and felt through the bedding and mattresses, finding nothing else, he picked up the case.

It was superbly crafted, fine lavender velvet bordered with gilt lining, he opened it and discovered a locket on a silver chain, it was a small crystal circle, inlaid with a pattern resembling an eight-pointed compass, the compass pattern was attached to the circle by a pair of gimbals allowing it to be rotated perpendicular to the outer circle, it rotated in eight steps, each giving an audible click, at one rotation, the crystal lit up with a fierce white glow and Thenson nearly dropped the ornament in alarm, he heard a sound, like a susurrus or a whisper emanate from the crystal. Thenson listened to it for a frozen moment, then restored the compass pattern to its original setting. The sound was abruptly cut off. It had been a voice, a questioning and earnest voice, from where only the Welkin knew, Thenson glared at the crystal in fascination, wondering whether to take it or not, already he had lingered beyond his time.

He replaced the crystal in its case as he had found it and put it back beneath the bed. He refilled the lamp to its original oil level and measured the wick, he singed the end of another and cut it to the size he had found the inserted one. He extinguished the lamp and removed the wick and replaced it with the newer one. With this task done, he left her room, locked the door and made his way back to the taproom without incident. He gave the order to his soldiers to return to the Castle on the way in, Alos met him in the taproom.

He unbuckled his rapier and handed it over to the inquisitive tavern keeper, he straightened his clothing, brushed his hair backed with his hand and went around to the main entry of the Tavern and came in that way, as if nothing had transpired. He made his way to the seat he had before, feeling the power of Gladei Merene’s eyes on him all the way, her voice faltered almost impalpably. Only when he had seated himself and received his ordered ale did he look out across the patrons to his singing, mysterious lover, to be confronted by the intensity of her eyes and the proud bearing of her carriage as she sang and swayed in rhythm.

His composure fled and he gaped at her foolishly. Slowly, her eyes moved off him and Thenson found he could breathe again. He sat there entranced at her voice and the movement of her slender form that he knew so intimately and cherished, if only he knew her mind and purpose, he had never known it, and he felt the sad resignation of one who realises that he will never taste the nectar only proffered to the select elite few. The locket in her room troubled him, what had it been? A communications phylactery? An odylic talisman? He knew that Gladei would never volunteer the answer, another side to the complex polygon of her being,

Gladei had finished the first half of her performance. The crowd cheered and applauded her, to which she gave a gracious bow, soon, the crowd turned their attention to their own company and barmaids circulated with drink. Gladei spoke to her musicians and lit a tabacit. She faced outward and locked eyes with Thenson, who sat sweating the sweat of the nervous. She quizzically lifted her head to him, which Thenson knew to be a beckon. Feeling craven , he got up and approached the stage like a chastened child, Gladei stepped off the stage and wordlessly linked her arm in Thenson’s and ushered him into the artist’s dressing room. Thenson had a number of gambits ready but was not prepared for what happened next. Gladei embraced him and kissed him passionately, her hands massaging his back and the side of his waist. The uncertainty and the fears Thenson held evanesced as he returned her embrace. She pulled back from him and looked up at him. “Forgive me, my love.”

“Forgive you for what? It is me who should be saying that.”

Thenson found he had tears in his eyes, Taunil’s translation and Omis’ commission deepened his sadness, but the ire of before had fled, he found he could not look her in the eye, not let her understand he knew of the duplicity or subterfuge at hand, or the part of it he was aware of.

Gladei mistook his sadness as an apology for his anger earlier in the day. “My love, you are who you are, I love you for who you are, you feel I hide part of myself from you, feel that somehow I deem you unworthy. How untrue that is.”

Thenson found whatever resolve he had cracking like a porcelain vase under a tonne of rubble. He took her hands in his and gazed into her eyes. “Gladei, run, go, I’m a Societor to the core, to say I love you feels, alien, but I do love you.”

Gladei smiled. “I have waited a long time for you to say that, that means, everything to me. Thank you, my love.” She whispered, she reached up to kiss him again but Thenson held her from him. “You did not hear me, run, Gladei, please.”

Gladei’s eyes narrowed in confusion. Her mouth moved wordlessly, forming the word run on her lips. “Thenson, what are you saying? What is it you are trying to tell me?”

Thenson balanced his loyalties to his Clan, Omis and Myre in general and weighed them against the only woman on Fels who had meant anything to him in a loving manner. He found the balance to be flawed. Instead he spoke equivocally. “Gladei, I would see you live, live out a full life. That will not happen here.”

She misunderstood him. “Does Myre’s peril finally bother you?”

Thenson shook his head, his emotions caught in a terrible,terrible vice. “Gladei, Hielach justice is what I fear.”

“You are not making sense, my love.”

“Ydrys’s aims and intentions make no sense save for those who worship him. Those who worship him most are the Hielachs, his servitors here, there are no secrets kept from them. Gladei, please, even I cannot prevent their justice.”

Gladei stared at him in total incomprehension. Omis had been correct. She had no idea anything regarding the Attuned Wind had been learned by Thenson, or by the Hielachs.

“What justice do you fear the Hielachs will mete?”

“The same justice they give all followers of antemery religions who cross them, no matter how beautiful they may be, or how well they sing.”

“How have I crossed the Hielachs? Thenson, tell me.”

“I cannot. Just run, Gladei, please, my brother can have you put on a ship for Huuna tomorrow.”

“Thenson!” Gladei’s voice contained a subtle hint of things arcane and forbidden. “Thenson, tell me, please, my love, I do not want to compel it from you.”

Thenson smiled at her sadly. “So, at the end, my knowledge is more important to you than myself. How damnably wrong Taunil was!”

Gladei stepped back and stared at Thenson. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was set firm. Thenson doubted he had ever seen her this way, he shook his head, the end was upon them. Her hard set to her features softened and she looked at her lover with a cocked eyebrow. “Whatever you know, it is clear to me, my welfare means more than your station as Clanmaster does to you. Thenson, I’m am proud of you.”

“Gladei, you are on Trowheald Island as you well know, no matter what your ability is with odylic art, there are greater, I only have to raise my voice and your doom is certain, whether you compel me or not. I do not want to exercise my right as legislator and lord of this Island with you, I have no idea what your purpose is with me or my Clan, but it will lead to your destruction , and the destruction of those allied with you, the Hielachs have held sway here for aeons, they have not done so without power, you say you are proud of me, well, if you are proud of me, take what is precious to you and make your way to my Castle, Taunil will see you safely to Huuna where the machinations of Ydrys do not reach. No matter what you may know, what I know concerning Hielachs and their power exceeds it. Gladei! Damn you!” Thenson sat on a bench. Gladei remained motionless. “Gladei, I am Clanmaster of the Trowheald Clan, you have always known this, even when I didn’t and I visited you at your home all those years ago. Gladei, I do not want to have to pass judgement on someone I love . The Hielachs have no such qualms, it is said that those who fall for love are the weakest in the end, that is a creed the Hielachs hold dear, they love nothing save for their power and the knowledge Ydrys imbues them with. Damn you, Gladei, go, begone, before it all falls upon you and you know horror, I am trying to save your life.”

Gladei came and sat beside Thenson. He could not bear to look at her. He felt the soft touch of her hand on his shoulder. “Thenson, I have not betrayed you or anyone.” She spoke softly, and Thenson wondered if she was using magic on him, the compelling she mentioned. “Thenson, it is clear you have learned something of my, my faith. How you have learned this is immaterial, but now you seek me to flee, to run. I cannot, you are forgetting I am a Societor like yourself. If only you would tell me what you know, please.”

“I thought it was immaterial.”

“No, I want to know what you know, my love, not how.”

“Gladei, you ask me to decide between my loyalty to my Clan and Myre and my feelings for you. I would be endangering people to tell you what I know.”

“Endangering? How little you know of me!”

Thenson turned to face her with vehemence. “That is exactly it!”

Gladei held his eyes unerringly. Thenson gestured at her. “Go on, use your odylic magic on me, that’s what is immaterial now.”

Gladei laughed, like a stream tinkling in a forest. “My love, my magic as you call it is at work on every occasion you share me on my bed, when you hold me and touch me and seek a respite from Myre, yes, I admit, you know little of my work as a priestess, or of the larger plan I have. It has been kept from you for a reason, and that reason is you are not ready to know it, you are not equal to its power or aims, oh, my love, how much I want to share Umberlust with you! How much, you will never know until you are ready, but if you think there is danger or ill associated with it, then you are as blind and bigoted as the Hielachs themselves.”

“Just ignorant, Gladei, ignorant, I’m not blind, but calling a Societor bigoted is like calling the sun a bright light Your choice of words was not fitting.”

“Is this bigotry a part of you being a Societor? I am one, yet I am no bigot.”

“Gladei, I’m also a sneak, I found, things belonging to you, these things hinted of treachery and espionage, letters from some wizard far away who hates me for touching you, well, that will be your end, for the Hielachs know of it and soon I will not hear you sing anymore. No, I told no Hielach, I don’t need to, secrets are their domain, remember. What destroys me is that I am being examined or seen to be fit for some purpose of this Octagon’s, and you are the examiner.”

“Whoever translated them for you knows the language well.” Gladei admitted simply.

“So, I am but a dupe, a tool for you and this Octagon, and I thought it was my charm that did it.”

“My love, you only read his demands, not my responses, I should be angry with you for doing this, yet it is I who is ashamed and saddened by how you perceive this situation. I do not blame you for drawing this conclusion that you are but a tool, and I have no true liking for you. The blame is mine, it would appear to you that I am using you for some end, let me tell you something, my love. I am not of the Attuned Wind, I am a priestess of the goddess Etesi, of Umberlust. Our creeds mirror each other to a great extent, in fact, in aeons past, we were allied, we were destroyed by your forbears and the other septs that came to Myre, the Coterie cannot accept equals, and they despise even ones who do not aspire to be their equals, Etesi, my mistress, does not compete with Cydain and his kin, nor could she. As you say, the Hielachs have a power which transcends and overwhelms that of the Attuned Wind, the Attuned Wind have no weapons other than odylicism, but that is weak and anile compared to the ferocity Ydrys and his adherents can unleash, if Ioja Octagon were to step foot in Myre he would know destruction, Kelnastim and his comrades would rend him, the Attuned Wind exists for the sake of beauty and the creation of beauty, my faith exists for the love a woman like myself can give a man like you...it is also the creation of beauty...it is called Umberlust for it is impenetrably dark to normal eyes.'

Whatever its name and purpose, it doesn't belong here.

Truly? Ydrys exists to keep secrets and keep restraint, creation is anathema to restraint and timelessness, defeats the purpose of stasis. Hence, the persecution and destruction ages past, you have no concept of the continual fear Ioja Octagon and his few people live in, they expect the wrath of the Coterie every instant of their lives, despite the distance between them, and you are Clanmaster, the leader of the first sept of Myre, the original family to espouse the Coterie here. Thenson, my love, I am the last of my kind, once I perish, Umberlust will perish with me, and Etesi will reside in her realm in the Welkin alone and without any to love her, now you tell me the Hielachs are aware of our plan, aware of us and that I must flee, Thenson, there is no place I could go to escape them, and I will not run from my service to Umberlust, or my alliance with the Attuned Wind, and, finally, I will not leave you.”

Thenson absorbed this as best he could, but all he heard in the end was her last words, she will not leave me. His cynicism took hold. “No, you would have failed your masters if you left your subject. Whatever your intentions, Gladei, I will not have you killed when it is in my power to keep you alive.” He winced at the harshness of his words, he expected her anger and never received it. She held his arm tenderly.

“You say such things as to reassure yourself that it is solid ground you stand on, the doubt you have of me is deserved, I know, for I have not told you of these things, yet, I love you, the man and I find, as I have written to Ioja Octagon, that I cannot use you for any purpose, Umberlust does not use hearts treacherously, but the Attuned Wind are desperate, hence the urgency and distaste in the letters of Ioja Octagon, they are passing from this world, but, I have placed vast hope in you, and, I will not expect you to live for my hope, that is my desire. You have your own desires and hopes, “

“Gladei, woman, the Hielachs will win, you know that, think of the practicalities, you will die at their hands and it’ll be me that suffers, and I will rise against the Hielachs in revenge and they will destroy me and my Clan, and they will win, they are not new to this game. I am Clanmaster, I deal openly with the Hielachs on equal terms and they will not tolerate the ambitions of any Octagon, they tolerate the Dyne now only for they pose no overt threat.”

“If I do die at their hands, then that is the way of it, but I will be a servant of Umberlust for the whole occasion, you know, a Dyne tested my mind earlier tonight, tried to understand me and my intentions, I felt nothing but sadness and pity from her.”

“Yes, Aludra is a remarkable woman. She told me you and your friend mean no harm.”

“My friend?”

“Now I’ve opened my mouth, yes, the fellow who thinks he is Dialesian.”

Gladei smiled warmly. “Disguised as one, he is here to observe Myre for Ioja Octagon, no, he plans no ill, in fact, he is in great fear, he has my opsimathic with him.”

“Your magic writing device?”

Gladei laughed. “Nothing too odd about that, it is a Hielach invention after all.”

“That’s exactly how they know about your activities and why Gaulvane if that is his name now floats out in to the Fairge as a corpse, “

Gladei looked downward morosely. “I despise this city, I despise the pathos which makes men destroy the new and the caring, he was harmless.”

“He was a spy acting contrary to the law of Myre, Gladei, that is an offence which is not so unusual.”

Gladei smiled weakly. “It tears at every part of the organon I follow, but I say to you, I hate the Hielachs, I truly hate them. I have been taught throughout my life that hate is for those who lack understanding, I cannot comprehend how a man’s mind can be set in such a way, like the Hielach’s are, they are totally inflexible, and progress and the birthing of the new is acid to them.” Gladei looked at her lover with pained eyes. “You say the end is near, you spoke of it as if I was to destroy you, or be the intermediary for it.”

“I was also told that your love for your religion surpasses anything you feel for me, I’m sorry, Gladei, but knowing that, knowing that kills me, and knowing I am an unwitting clown in some conspiracy doesn’t sit well with me either. Dalmane saw to it that I lived a mistaken life, Olanelli lived one according to Sabree’s inscrutable dictates, and, now, I am living one at your hand, have regard for the way that makes me feel, and have regard for the sheer, simple fact that I do not want to see you hurt or killed, in spite of the implications of you in reference to Myre’s security, I would, I would fight for you.”

Gladei buried her head in his shoulder. Thenson felt her trembling and sought to alleviate it in his clumsy and unsure manner. A man appeared in the doorway and retreated slightly at the sight of the two of them, Thenson turned and faced the fellow, his eyes full of dare and challenge.

“I am sorry, but we are back on in a moment.”

Thenson nodded his head offhandedly. The fellow departed. Thenson whispered in Gladei’s ear. “Go out and sing, cheer yourself and the loons out there, when you have finished, come to my home, no Hielach or god can touch you there, I rule on this Island.”

Gladei held his head in her hands. “You are not staying?”

“I can’t bear to hear your voice knowing that you will be gone from me.” Thenson rose and gathered his composure. Gladei sat on the bench, her hands clasped to her knees. He kissed the top of her head, and left Trowheald Tavern.

Near the Stele he was met by Omis. Thenson took stock of his uncle and bowed.

“How went your exercise?” Omis asked mildly.

Thenson, his morale at a level near zero, shrugged indifferently. “I put the letters back, that was it.”

“And?”

“Omis, please, I’m in no mood, they’ll kill Gladei, won’t they? Kelnastim, Kelnastim, the rest, they’ll gleefully raze her existence from Fels, all for she thinks differently to them.”

Omis laughed shortly. “I think differently to them Thenson, it isn’t the thinking, it is the deed, she conspires in seditious activities, no matter how peaceful or beneficial they may be, Thenson, she is breaking the law of Myre, simple as that, no state or nation tolerates espionage, I feel sorry for your singer, nephew, she’s as much sucker here as you, there are things afoot she has probably not been made aware of, I take it from your mood that you have fallen for your emotions and given her fair warning?”

“I mentioned no names, I am Clanmaster, I do not betray my own, yes, I class Gladei as my own, that explains the torn nature of me. What is it she is not aware of?”

Omis smiled at him evenly. “At noon, at my home, Thenson.”

Thenson became aware of a larger, more dreadful suspicion. “Do you have a commission to take Gladei? Are you going to kill her?”

Omis gazed around the Ipty Road and the Equitant Men on patrol here and there. “Thenson, I am in your seat of power, I’m good, but not that good, right now, you would bring the Clathe down into pieces in Gladei’s name, I am not that foolish.”

Thenson stepped back and signalled. Omis regarded him sadly. A score of Trowheald soldiery came up and surrounded the two. The captain bowed to Thenson and looked at him enquiringly. Thenson, eyes upon his uncle, said: “Go at once to the Tavern, surround it and put it under guard, take as many men as you deem fit. When the singer, Gladei Merene has finished her performance, arrest her and bring her to the Castle. See to it no harm comes to her. This is a Trowheald command and you will ignore any militia or Hielach orders to the contrary, you will also ignore any protestation made by Gladei. Her safety is paramount.”

The complement assembled in formation and hurried off northward, leaving Thenson alone with his uncle. “Nothing personal, Omis, remember I am Clanmaster, if there is mischief on my Island, I deal with it, the Clathe notwithstanding. I could not possibly act in any other way, and I will not have mercenary activities occur here without my knowledge.”

Omis agreed. “I expected you to act this way, in the end it will cause Gladei more pain and it will bring the Clan into conflict with the Clathe.”

“Well, if I knew what was going on, maybe, no, despite my rank and stature, I am being treated like an errand boy from Swott on a needs to know basis, by you, by Gladei herself. Thus, I take my own action as I see fit, Omis, I do not appreciate being kept clueless, especially when it concerns the well-being of my Clan and the governing of my Island city, I do not like having my authority on this Island subverted by clandestine arrangements and assassination contracts.”

Omis laughed and turned to leave. He spoke from over his shoulder. “My home at noon. I will see you then.”

Exasperated and rankling with a fury, Thenson watched his uncle saunter westward down Ipty Road. “Maybe,” he shouted at the receding figure, “maybe you would tell all if I had you arrested and the truth coerced from you.”

Omis stopped and faced Thenson. His voice, though distant, carried to Thenson clearly. “So, you are Dalmane Trowheald.” Omis continued westward. Thenson glowered at the sky above, and entered his home in a state of thorough rage and confusion. He went up to his rooms and discarded his pouch and rapier angrily, he seized a decanter of wine and proceeded to lose himself in inebriation. He sat on his balcony gazing over the lights of Gaol Island and distant Loysis Point absently, waiting for Gladei's next move.

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