By the time the Venn reached the homeland the next year, Rajnir's physical recovery matched his resumption of authority.
He kept the promises he had made to Valda and to Halvir Durasnir. The promise to Valda was first: he declared the end of birth-thralldom. This stunning change in Venn culture was not altogether welcome, including by some thralls, who found themselves thrust into a situation they were ill equipped to handle: earning a living. Most of that generation remained as servants, and some even wore their iron torcs as badges of loyalty, which created another strange eddy in the flow of Venn history.
Rajnir regained friends, and made new ones. He had lovers, though he refused to marry: he appointed Brun Durasnir to oversee the queen's former duties.
Though he deeply valued, and was valued by, his small circle, he was never a popular king. His reign became synonymous with Rainorec, Venn Doom, shadowed by memories of defeat, humiliation, and summary change. He knew it, and resented the weight of authority, which he felt as an invisible torc nearly as insufferable as the magical control Erkric had once exerted over him. So when Halvir Durasnir reached the age of thirty--the old year of kingship--Rajnir abdicated on his behalf.
The uproar this created was mostly at the top, as Halvir had been given increasing responsibility from the time he turned twenty. He was bright, handsome, respected, so the uproar was mostly a gesture on the part of the other Houses who had hoped eventually to gain ascendance. They resented this promotion of Durasnir House over all, so Halvir adopted the name of his beloved wife--Tadara Sofar--and thus created the dynasty that remained in place for 800 years.
Tadara was Signi's daughter, born in Sartor during the time the Mage Council held sessions determining whether or not to accept the gift offered. Mistress Resvaes of the Sartoran Magic Council, perhaps regretting an over-swift decision she had made years before, became Signi's champion. Signi remained in Sartor for a couple of years, teaching the navigation, and establishing magical connections with the Venn nodes of measure.
Then Signi traveled home at last. She had a very few years left with her mother, healing the long breach; her father had died in Goerael. Signi had nothing but the clothes that she stood in and a pack of books, so she had warned her small daughter not to expect much. She was considerably surprised, and somewhat dismayed, to be accepted as a Seer. At first she tried to explain that she had only had one vision, and memory had reduced it to an untrustworthy memory. She may as well have spoken into the wind. Her mother left nothing--hel dancers' property belonged to the group in those days. Signi was welcomed to live with the Durasnirs, where Tadara grew up. Tadara was not much to look at. She was short and square and brown, contrasting with her tall, blond friends and relations, but she and Halvir were fast friends by the end of their first meeting, the stronger because both felt like outsiders. As they got older their friendship deepened to a lifelong bond.
The prospect of Tadara as a new kind of queen resigned the Houses to the elevation of a Durasnir to king. The two reigned well, but peace did not outlast them. Erkric's magic had indeed been hoarded by a secret cabal. When Valda's vigilant dags at last died off, the cabal made a try for control of the kingdom; after Halvir's death, they tried again, teaming with some of the old houses who wanted to expand in order to recover old glory. The result was the Venn were defeated by an alliance of neighboring lands, and the first item on the treaty was that they had to give up all magic, except the domestic spells, which would be overseen by the Mage Council. After that, the Venn largely vanished from the history of the rest of the world, except as a vague and dire legend. They continued to be unvague and very dire in the north for centuries to come, eventually causing the northern kingdoms to form a defensive federation at Bereth Ferian, but that, as they say, is another story.
The Fox Banner Fleet metamorphosed into a Marlovan navy. As newcomers were recruited, Marlovans and Iascans, the old guard slipped eastward, most to Freedom. Though Toaran in origin, the Swifts remained at the core of the navy. Eflis and Sparrow, who had gradually taken over the education of the new ship rats, finally retired and established a mariners' school at the then-small harbor at Ellir. It grew, eventually training Khanerenth's military in both land and maritime skills--with an emphasis on the latter.
Jeje sa Jeje was the first to sail away from the Fox Banner Fleet, once the navy took on a distinctly Marlovan air. Nugget sailed with her, and for a time they hired out to convoys and protected them. When they heard about pirate attacks, Jeje sailed to fight them, commanding from the Vixen pretty much as Inda had done. She never lost a battle, and became Harbormaster on the retirement of Dhalshev. She stayed in that position her entire life. She insisted to the end that what she did was not politics, though she wore her beautiful crimson robe for what she called 'negotiations' until it had faded and aged, but by then it had gained such authority that subsequent Harbormasters always wore crimson robes when issuing orders.
Jeje Pirate-Fighter was justly famed during her long life; her renown spread after a Colendi court poet met her (and how a court poet got anywhere near Jeje, who hated kings and despised nobles, is a story in itself). After an interview with Jeje (during which the poet heard Jeje's opinions of courts and kings) the poet staged a play about Jeje, using her to pillory the falsity of courtly life as she presented an entirely fictitious episode in which Jeje gets the best of counts and countesses, dukes and duchesses, and finally royalty. That play was a resounding success. Jeje became a staple figure in plays for several centuries--always wearing crimson, though by then no one knew why. She would have found it most amusing that at least one of the events of her colorful life was entirely made up.
After he and Jeje first returned to Freedom, Tau could never stay in one place long, so he ended up traveling all through the Sartoran continent, from courts to harbors until he was co-opted more and more frequently as a negotiator between the various governments and interests along the strait, and in the east. His reputation as Elgar's 'angel' was occasionally bolstered by wily old Chim and his "If ye cannot settle, we'll call the Marlovans in. Ye know Taumad's friends with their king."; This combination established a peace that--to everyone's surprise--stretched from years to decades; by the time Tau found out about Chim's stratagem, the old fleet commander had died at last, and Tau never denied the allegation.
Tau and Jeje had a son. During the long waits for Tau to return, Jeje and Dasta in middle-age surprised one another with a hankering for marriage. This marriage complemented Jeje's relationship with Tau; Jeje and Dasta had a son. With Dasta as the stationary parent, the boys grew up as brothers.
Both Jeje's sons stayed with the sea, Dasta's in ship building, and Tau's became a famous pirate fighter. So famed in fact that many of Inda's exploits were later attributed to him, including the freeing of the strait. This son married a woman from the west of Bren, which contributed to the legend of 'Elgar' having been born in Bren. Some of the descendants of this marriage crossed over into Ymar.
Mutt and Nugget did not pair up. He had a hankering for security and even respectability, unrecognized until he had become the first admiral of the Marlovan navy after Barend retired to become harbormaster at the Nob. After ten good years he retired to Lindeth with an Olaran wife and a sea-bent progeny, becoming harbormaster for the remainder of his life. Nugget resented the discipline that Mutt loved, and she was incapable of a single sustained relationship. She was one of the first to find her way back to Freedom. Though she occasionally visited her brother Woof--who became a diplomat, married, and had children—she sailed as an independent until she decided she was too old to swing upside down from the upper masts. She took to conducting tours of the old pirate haunts for wealthy east coasters with a limited taste for adventure. She was such a popular hostess, with all her great stories, that her tour ship multiplied into a flotilla, thus beginning the tour business in the south.
The year after Inda and Tdor went home to Choraed Elgaer, Princess Tdor-Kialen Montrei-Vayir was born to Hadand and Evred. Hadand kept her in the royal city so that Starand would not raise her; unfortunately, Fabern Idayago-Vayir, Starand's daughter, was far more obnoxious than her mother. Tdor-Kialen had to grow up with Fabern, but life could have been far worse. Liet Toraca, Nightingale's daughter, was chosen to marry Evred and Hadand's second son. Liet was a peace-maker, beloved by both of the princes, by Tdor-Kialen, and by Evred and Hadand.
Cama's children both inherited his good looks, but his son had more of his personality, so Tdor-Kialen was content to go north, where they had a good marriage. She allied strongly with her half-sister, Cama and Ndand-Arveas's daughter, who became Randviar after her mother. Because of the network of guild women and Marlovan defenders established by those two women, peace lasted in the north far longer than anyone would have expected.
Starand's daughter Fabern had inherited her father's stunning black-eyed beauty, and her mother's personality, which beauty and rank only worsened. There was no possibility she would ever get enough attention, and eventually she became the most gossiped-about gunvaer in generations.
Tdor-Kialen's having been kept home broke tradition, and while everyone acknowledged Hadand-Gunvaer Deheldegarthe's right to raise her daughter, more and more jarl families found excuses to keep their daughters at home. As the Ola-Vayirs gradually gained ascendance in the northwest especially, the breakdown of the betrothal system began. The girls did not always become loyal to the new families, but more often stayed loyal to their own, and generations later there were some spectacular kidnappings, runaways, and escapes to add to family legends, especially during the years the Ola-Vayirs were on the throne and Jarls ruled their jarlates like petty kings.
Choraed Elgaer flourished under the watchful care of its new Adaluin and Iofre. Inda-Adaluin continued to ride the border, sometimes swapping off with Whipstick if spring was late and his wounds troubled him. Not that Inda ever said anything, he'd just find Whipstick and the Riders gone, and he'd wonder how they knew. Whipstick and Noren had a daughter the year after their son Tanrid was born. Hadand-Gunvaer placed the girl with the senior Basna family, and Tanrid went to the academy to train as a dragoon commander.
In 3953 Inda's daughter Hadand (nicknamed Arrow because she was so scrawny) married Fox's son Indevan, who by special fiat had become a King's Runner at the academy, a position that would last until he inherited, at which time he must return to exile to take up his duties as Jarl. Before the wedding, Arrow broke her arm in a riding accident, which meant she couldn't make a wedding shirt. She wouldn't let anyone else do it, so Tdor offered Arrow the use of Inda's, which was gratefully accepted. Tdor carried Inda's wedding shirt to Darchelde, in a rare visit by an Iofre outside of her own border. True to her vow, she told Arrow about Signi and Tadara. Inda rode to the royal city during the time his boys were at the academy, but he never again returned after Kendred's last horsetail year. He always meant to, just . . . "Maybe next year."
The year 3963, the Year of the Great Frost, brought the most changes. It began when Fareas-Iofre died quietly in her sleep during a deep winter freeze. Inda began his rounds during what he thought was the beginning of a very late spring, but was caught by a terrible blizzard. He never did well in extremely cold weather; his joints would pain him into immobility, especially his right arm. A well-meaning young Runner gave him a hero's dose of kinthus, as no one knew about his near overdose in Ymar. Inda sank into vision, surrounded by his Riders, and slipped out of life, leaving Castle Tenthen distraught.
Another death that year was Buck Marlo-Vayir. By then, he and Fnor and Vedrid, Captain of the King's Riders, had settled into a comfortable relationship where Fnor and Vedrid were together whenever the King's Rider was sent through on Herskalt duties.
Hadand was so upset by the news abut Inda that she took horse to go home to Tenthen, with the idea that she and Tdor could comfort one another. She had grown stout, as her grandmother had been, and though she was still strong and active in her ceaseless rounds, she was not the rider she'd been as a girl. The animal slipped on black ice--the frost had lingered for weeks--Hadand fell and broke her neck.
Tdor saw her son Jarend and his wife Rialden take over as Adaluin and Iofre. While recovering from the double tragedy of Inda's and Hadand's deaths, she considered her future. She could be senior woman--her relations with the younger generation were as good as Fareas-Iofre's had been, if not better--but she felt there was no need of a senior woman. The young people were perfectly capable, and though she loved Tenthen, without Inda, home only held part of her heart.
When Joret Dei's and Valdon Shagal's son, the crown prince of Anaeran-Adrani, came to Darchelde on his world tour, Tdor was invited to Darchelde again.
Most of the Tenthen Castle children had shown little interest in Tdor's young days, for as far as they were concerned, her life had been boring--never in the midst of great events. The exception was her tiny wisp of a granddaughter with the heart-shaped face that reminded Tdor of Mran Cassad, and eyes so much like Fareas-Iofre's. That child observed, she thought, she read, and Tdor recognized another whose inward life was as rich as any life of adventure could ever be. So before she left, Tdor invited this girl to her room, and gave her the old trunk, explaining each notch, while the girl knelt beside her, big brown eyes intent, her thin little body shivering with intensity.
Tdor packed her few belongings into a saddle bag, and rode to Darchelde, with only one lingering, impress-on-the-memory backward glance, because she sensed it would be her last.
In Darchelde, Tdor was welcomed by Fox on down to her granddaughter Tdan, who was tall, strong, with bright red hair and green eyes. Tdan had inherited Fox's sense of irony--and his restlessness for travel.
Montredavan-An girls still could not marry into any Iascan families. In fact, within ten years of becoming gunvaer Fabern Ola-Vayir had disbanded the queen's training when she discovered that her sister in law, Liet Toraca, was far more powerful and effective than herself. Women were required to train their own daughters; the practical result was to diminish the sense of community among the Iascan women, which had dire results within a few generations.
Tdan Montredavan-An grew up at home. She and her Grandma Tdor became fast friends. Then the Adrani prince arrived, and Tdor witnessed Tdan and the prince fall dramatically in love.
Fox revealed his secret project to Tdor, who had stayed on to share memories of Inda. She used his words without amending them, not excluding the 'banner of damnation' though she knew the Fox Banner had once belonged to the Montredavan-Ans.
Two years later, when Tdan traveled over the mountain to marry the crown prince, Tdor went with her, getting at last to venture beyond the Iascan border. She and Joret traveled to Sartor together. Tdor was delighted with new vistas, interesting people, famous places; meanwhile, she had never forgotten Signi or her possible daughter. Not knowing if she'd ever get an answer, she sent a message via the Magic Council there in Sartor.
It took a season, but a letter arrived in the Adrani capital for Tdor, causing quite a stir. It had been sent all the way from the Land of the Venn. And it contained a magical transfer token.
Though everyone tried to talk Gramma Tdor out of using it, she vanished one day, and transferred to the far north. There she was met by Signi, whose health was failing, but she was kind and welcoming, interested in everything Tdor had to say. Tadara, now Queen of the Venn, looked like a sandy-haired Hadand to Tdor, but of all Inda's children she was the only one to inherit that distinctive, intense gaze Inda had had: when he heard you, you felt like you were the only thing in the world for him, right then.
Tdor did not stay long. She did not know the language, and the confusing tangle of garishly colored underground rooms and tunnels seemed strange and unwelcoming. She could tell that nobody save Signi and the young queen knew what to make of her, and there was tension in Twelve Towers, something about trouble with mages. Tdor did not want to experience that long transfer wrench again, and so Tadara arranged a ship voyage to the south for her. As Tdor began her southward journey at the height of summer, she experienced the strange hissing lights that arced and shimmered across the far northern sky, a sight so beautiful she spent a couple of short nights lying on deck and staring up at the stars.
From trader to trader she was passed along, until at last she reached Anaeran-Adrani again.
Tdor continued to write letters to the wives of her sons (neither boy liked writing any more than Inda had) and her granddaughters. Now included among the correspondents was Tadara Sofar, Queen of the Venn, who asked for the truth about her father. Tdor answered all her questions as truthfully as she had Fox's. Tadara cherished those records, which became a part of the Sofar archive deep in their mountain fastness.
Tdor enjoyed writing to Tadara about Inda. As she felt her long life drawing to a close, the importance of records preoccupied her, and so it was she who talked Valdon Shagal into writing his famous memoir. Though his thanks to her were subsequently left out by later Shagal descendants, who considered an old, foreign grandmother irrelevant, the tone that everyone later found so enchanting owed everything to Tdor. Valdon had read each day's writing to her, and he did not consider a passage successful unless he had made her smile.
Fox's son never went to sea, so the Montredavan-An connection to the navy ended there for several generations.
The year that Inda died, once he recorded Tdor's memories, Fox Montredavan-An finished his book, which he had been working on steadily in between Inda's annual visits. He left his jarlate to his son Indevan, who resigned from the King's Runners, though he and Hastred Montrei-Vayir had had a good relationship.
Fox gave his memoir into Indevan's hands, and took off to sail the world in the drakan-ship he had named Treason.
There, he, and the ship, vanish in time.
Inda never knew about Fox's record. What would become the famous chronicle of Elgar the Fox was handed down as a secret in the Montredavan-An family. It became a manual for restoring the academy when the Montredavan-Ans (or Montredaun-Ans, after the language shift) regained the throne, once their ten generation exile ended.
Here the history of Fox's memoir takes a peculiar turn. His descendants appreciated the wisdom and skill that Fox recorded in his long conversations with Inda. But they decided that knowledge was power, and so the memoir was recopied into two versions. There was an edition written for the general reader, called An Examination of Greatness (Fox's title, but without his ironic introduction), with an eye to the enhancement of Marlovan prestige. This edition excised everything about the academy and training, and sank Inda's part, attributing to Fox most of Inda's exploits.
This was the version sent to the Fellowship of the Tower archive in Sartor, where it was duly copied, exactly as written, right down to errors of orthography, and distributed to any who wished to see. It became very popular in Colend and Sartor when the second most famous Montredaun-An king, Ivandred, brought the Fox Banner east, before it became known as the Banner of the Damned. The unedited version, as Fox wrote it, remained hidden for many centuries. The name Elgar Strait has lasted for 800 years.
The warrior associated with the name took on such legendary exploits that his birthplace was, and still is, claimed by at least six kingdoms, and his life was reported as recent for two hundred years after Inda's lifetime.
'Elgar' came to mean invincible, a paladin, in most languages except those used by the Marlovans. In Iasca Leror (and later, when the kingdom renamed itself Marloven Hesea, then Marloven Hess) the name Indevan persisted in popularity. As Choraed Elgaer gradually receded from Marlovan affairs until it became its own kingdom, local legends about Inda remained distinct. 800 years later there are still traces of Inda in local stories and in local names such as Indascamp, a meadow where Inda usually stayed on his yearly rounds, and Indasbridge, near what used to be Tenthen. Inda's tapestry was so revered it ended up being stolen several times, always in inheritance disputes. Eventually the tales of Inda-Harskialdna divorced completely from the faraway legends of the sea-going Elgar the Fox. Marlovens just never took much to sea tales.
When Evred told Vedrid he was leaving the kingdom with Taumad Dei, he kept his long-ago promise, offering to release Vedrid from service. Vedrid had no desire whatsoever to travel; he also knew that the king would be in good hands, and so he became a private individual at last, traveling down to Marlo-Vayir. Vedrid and Fnor retired to the horse stud, leaving the younger generation to take their positions as Jarl and Randael, Jarlan and Randviar.
Meanwhile, Evred traveled the world, spending the longest in Sartor. He kept his identity secret with Tau's concurrence; he spent an entire year masquerading as a scribe in the Archive in Sartor. If the Magic Council knew who he was (and it's likely) there was no official note taken.
When the winters began to erode Evred's health Tau took him to Freedom Island. Evred surprised everyone by not just adapting but showing every evidence of enjoyment. Jeje, long accustomed to ruling, looked at him askance, but during their first interview, Evred said with some irony, "I understand you are queen here."
Jeje understood him quite well, and on-lookers were amazed to see their tough old Harbormaster blush. He never interfered with governance, but seemed to content to pace over Inda's boyhood sites, and then sit in Dasta's tavern and listen to sea-faring stories and talk through the old battles stories. Jeje soon got used to his presence. He and Tau took up residence on the hill overlooking the bay.
One last note before I leave them to enjoy their days in peace and tranquility.
Evred recognized the sky in Dasta's tavern from one of the records he'd perused in the Archive in Sartor. That pattern of stars had been captured by a magic spell, the result of a mage who had been through the Gate to other worlds.
He hesitated about revealing it. He had no use for the money, as Tau had sufficiency for their needs. After listening to speculation, he finally decided to leave the subject alone. Discovering that mysterious sky was an adventure best left to the young.