FIRST LIGHT

Chapter 14

They sailed along with the sharp-toothed Seacoast Mountains beside them, heading for the Harbour. When they were near enough, Rafel and the other Lightfriends sent out the Thought-without-Words again, to inform the Lords of Mountain and Harbour that they were returning to the Harbour. The Lightfriends at the Harbour returned the communication, assuring them of the safety of the Harbour, and that a warm welcome awaited them. Impatient as they were to return, it seemed a long time before they rounded the headland and sailed along the gentler coast that led to the Harbour, but at last they reached it. Brann gazed intently as they neared the great stone piers where their ships would tie up. The house of the Lord of the Harbour, long occupied by the Dark Lord’s garrison but now freed, lay to the side of the large paved area where ships would disembark their passengers and cargo, and long, low wooden buildings for work on ships or the storage of goods surrounded its two other sides, the last side open to the sea. The piers and sea wall were sturdily built , to withstand the crashing waves of the Two-Moon Tides, and Brann could see figures waiting there. Foremost among them he recognised his father and Lord Tamor, and with them were some of the Lightfriends and Ketai, and men of Forest and Mountain. He thought, though he was not sure, that he caught a glimpse of a woman among them. Perhaps the Healer Marama, he thought, come to see that all was well with them.

As they drew nearer, though, he heard Tamorine give a gasp of recognition, as she turned to Tamran and exclaimed ” Tamran- it is our mother!” And why should their mother not come to greet them, Brann thought. The Dark Lord’s mercenaries had been dealt with, and it was safe enough for her to return from hiding now. Having heard that her son, whom she had long thought dead, was alive and returning, could any mother have resisted coming to welcome him back? He smiled at brother and sister and said, “That will be a happy reunion , indeed!” “I am so glad”, Tamorine said, “that our mother has come and can see for herself that all is well with you, Tamran.”

They neared the stone piers and the Shipfather began to shout orders to his mariners. Their ship, and the other, steered safely into their moorings and tied up. They waited impatiently while all the work of mooring was done and everything arranged for disembarkation, and at last they were able to leave the ship, with grateful thanks and farewells to the Shipfather and his men, and head towards their waiting reception. Knowing the importance of this moment to Tamorine’s family, Brann held back a little to allow Tamorine and Tamran to reach them first. Lord Tamor and their mother came forward quickly to meet them, and the woman flung her arms around Tamran, crying “Tamran! Tamran, my son!” He returned her embrace warmly. Brann could see the tears on her cheeks, as she said ” So many years I had thought you lost to me! And now you have returned. Praise Light!” So Tamorine’s family had accepted Light, Brann thought. Tamran said, “I am sorry you have had so much pain on my account, dearest Mother. But I had a task to fulfil, as you know, and it is done. Tamorine is free of the law of the Mountains. But if not for Rafel and the Lightfriends, I doubt I would have lived to succeed.” “I know, I have heard the story from the Lightfriends”, she replied. Releasing her son, she turned to her daughter. “My valiant Tamorine!” she said, “I am proud of you, and your part in this defeat of the Dark Lord, and happy that Tamran has finished his task and set you free. You are a worthy Heir to your grandfather, and your father would have been proud of you too.” Tamorine smiled at her mother, “I am glad to have played my part”, she replied, “but now my brother has returned, he can take his place as the Heir again.” Tamor spoke now. “That is proper – but what of you, my Tamorine? I do not think my warrior maiden will settle to a life of women’s tasks!” Tamorine looked at Brann, who came forward and told the Lord of the Mountains, “Lord Tamor, since Tamorine is free now, we have become betrothed, with Tamran’s blessing. She will be my Lady, and help with all that there is still left to do to rebuild Li’is and deal with the last of our enemies. I would not expect her to be content with less.” Tamor smiled. “Certainly you two brave warriors are destined to be together! My blessings to you both.” Baran, Brann’s father, who had also waited for the happy reunion of Tamorine’s family, now said, “That is excellent news, Brann, my son. I shall be honoured to welcome such a daughter into our family.” Tamorine’s mother said, “Ah, I never thought I would be able to prepare for my daughter’s wedding! Praise Light that all is resolved so well.” “I am afraid I do not even know your name, Lady”, Brann confessed, and was answered with a warm smile. “My name is Ranella”, she replied, “and I am very glad to meet you, Brann.”

Tamorine said, “There are still many tasks to be done before we can think of a wedding, Mother.” Baran nodded, and said, “We have made a start. Trees have been felled and are being prepared for ship-building.” At his words, Brann looked up towards the hill that overlooked the Harbour. The Harbour Town rose up its lower slope, and in the forest above it there were signs of work , gaps where trees had been felled and tracks where they had been dragged down to the Harbour workshops. Baran continued, ” Our people have been able to move back into the Town, and those at risk to come down from the caves. We have turned the largest cave into a Place of Prayer for the Lightfriends.” Rafel spoke now. “We have not yet met, Lord Baran, Lord Tamor. I am Rafel, the Lightstone-Bearer.” “We have not met”, Tamor answered, ” but we have heard of you from the Lightfriends, and your coming to help us drive the Darkness from Li’is. We are grateful – to you and to Light.” “We had not known of Light before”, Baran added, ” but now the Lightfriends have shown us the Way of Light, and we have accepted it. It is the only Way for the people of Li’is.” “Baran and I have discussed our plans for the future, when the Darkness has been driven out of the East also”, Tamor went on. “We have revived the plan for an extension of the Harbour Town, since we will need a new City to replace the one that the Dark Lord occupied. The Lightfriends have told us that it will remain uninhabitable because of the curse of Darkness upon it.” “That is so”, Rafel assented. “The Lightfriends have told you of the Dancers? They will keep the Dark City ruins sealed against the Dark Lords, but no one can dwell there.” “We have heard of the Dancers”, Baran said. “I would like one day to see them. But for now we are happy to know that they guard our world.” “We of the Mountains will work with our brothers of the Forest – or the Harbour, now that you have regained it – to fell the trees and drain the marshes to create the City”, Tamor said. “But that is for the future, when the last of our enemies are dealt with.” “Tamran and I had discussed such a plan”, Brann said. “I am glad that we are of like mind.” “We have cleared the road to the Fortress, now that the Harbour has been secured”, Tamor said. “No need to ascend by the Stairway now, and we can move freely between the Harbour and the Fortress.”

Now that the leaders of their forces had led the way, the rest of them came forward to greet friends and kin and mingle together to tell their story. Baran said, “We have prepared a welcome and a homecoming meal at my house, to which all are invited. We must do honour to our returning forces, and to the Lightstone-Bearer, who have defeated the Dark Lord and also freed the Seacoast Town of the Children of Night who remained.” Brann said, “We heard that those who fled the defeat here in the Harbour Town took ship for the East despite the Two-Moon Tide. Is anything known of them?” His father replied, “It is presumed that the ships were overwhelmed by the Tide, since some wreckage was washed up in the Harbour. I suppose it is possible that some may have survived and been cast up on the Western shores. We will send your ships to search, if the Shipfathers are willing, and make sure.” “The Children of Night we took prisoner have been sent to their Dark masters in Ma’al, by the power of the Lightstone and the Dancers”, Tamran told them. “When we have reached the Eastern Continent, we must overcome their garrisons there. The Dancers say there is another way there from Ma’al, which the Dark Lords made by their sorcery, their first entrance into Li’is. The Children of Night who survive our attack will also be sent into Ma’al , and that doorway too sealed by the Dancers. ” “There was a Lord of the East”, Baran replied, “before the Dark Lord came, and the East was overwhelmed. If any of his Heirs are still living, the Lordship of the East can be restored.” “Some of the Lightfriends will come with us when we sail East”, Rafel said, “and I will ask for volunteers to remain in the East and teach the Way of Light there too.”

They crossed to the house of the Lord of the Harbour, now restored to Baran’s ownership, where , as he had said, tables and benches had been set out in the spacious grounds, for though the house was not small, it did not have room for all the returning forces, Ketai, and Lightfriends to sit and eat. Before the meal, however, they gathered, closely packed, in the main Hall of the house, to hear thanks and congratulations from the Lords and people of Harbour and Fortress. Then Rafel led them in a time of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving to Light, and spoke a Meal-blessing, before they ate. Brann, seeing Roth among those gathered, asked, “Is it well with you, Roth? How go the wedding plans?” “All is prepared”, Roth replied, with a smile, “but we were waiting for our friends to return safely and join us in the celebration.” He paused, then added, “I think we will be the first in Li’is to be wed under the Rule of Light – unless you and your betrothed wed first!” “We will leave that honour to you and your bride”, Brann laughed, “since we still have work to do. I do not think Tamorine and I will be wed till after the East has been regained.” Roth looked thoughtful. “In all the history of Li’is”, he said, “there never was a maiden like Tamorine, such a valiant warrior. It seems Light meant her for this time – and for you, Brann. I wonder what you two will accomplish together, with Light’s aid?” “As long as it is in the Will of Light”, Brann answered him, “we will do what needs to be done. Light and the Lightstone-Bearer will guide us.” Brann’s cousin Jamin joined them, with Tavan in tow, enquiring after Javan. “Tavan said he was mending”, Jamin said, “when last the Lightstone-Bearer asked his Brothers-in-Light for news of the wounded.” “He is”, Brann reassured him. “No danger of the Wound-Fever, and he is healing well, but slowly, and still in some pain. He cannot be moved yet.” Jamin sighed. “As long as he lives, and returns home when he can, I am content.”

Brann excused himself and returned to Tamorine and Tamran, who were with Baran and Tamor. Tamor smiled at him. “We were discussing the wounded at the Lightfriends’ haven “, he said. Brann replied “Ah, Jamin was just asking me for news of his brother.” “When we return to the Fortress we will prepare for when they may be moved”, Tamor told him. “We can reach the haven easily from the Fortress, and bring them back there.” “They can rest at the Fortress”, Tamorine said, “and when your men are fit for more travel, they can return to the Harbour.” “Some of our Mountain folk will stay here at the Harbour”, Tamran added, “to help with the tree felling for the ships. Baran told us there are still shipwrights and ship-building sheds here, since the mercenaries forced them to work on their ships. The skills have been passed down, along with their resentment against the Dark ones. ” Baran laughed. “From what I have been told”, he said, “I do not think some of the enforced repairs were made as carefully as they might have been. I believe some of the ships’ crews were forewarned, and made their escape secretly in the small boats during the night, leaving the ships to founder, with the supplies meant for their captors , and some mercenaries, lost. Li’is has fought back in small ways, until you defeated the Dark Lord. Now we we shall take the fight to their last outpost and be rid of them.” Tamor said, “When we return to the Fortress we will send out messengers to the villages along the edge of the Great Moor, and the villages and towns of the Western Farmlands, to tell of his defeat. They may have heard rumours of it, but we must ensure they know the truth.” Brann wondered, “Might there still be mercenary raiding parties out and about, though, not knowing what has happened to the Dark City and its Lord?” “It is a possibility”, Tamor answered, “But we will be careful. We will not send lone messengers.” “We will need experienced mariners, if we are to sail to the East”, Tamorine said now. “Will we have enough?” “We will”, Baran assured her. “Like others, they have been held in bondage, forced to work for the Dark Lord and his mercenaries, and the skills they passed down the generations used only for the benefit of their captors. They too are eager to take the fight to the East and be rid of the mercenaries there.” “Then as soon as the ships are ready and our forces gathered, we can sail for the East”, Brann said.

Tamor went on “We will not be idle at the Fortress, either. We intend to build onto it, to make it a proper garrison for our people and a place of refuge, and a stronghold to guard the Spearcleft Pass against any further invasion. It is our thinking, too, that perhaps when our fight against the Dark ones is done, we should join together and establish another Fortress in the West, to guard those shores and their farmlands and communities.” “That would certainly be useful”, Brann commented. Rafel, who had been talking to some of the Lightfriends and Ketai, now joined them, with Ket-Jal, in time to hear Tamor’s last remarks. He said, “Ah, the West. We wished to speak with you about that.” The Lords of Harbour and Mountains looked at him with curiosity, and he went on,” Now that we are safe in Li’is and the Lightfriends can teach the Way of Light without danger, and establish homes here, the Ketai will be free of their vow to protect us, and can return to their old way of life, though we shall never forget the service they have done us.” Ket-Jal spoke now. ” If the Ketai are to live as herders and horse-breeders, as before, we will need lands. We have seen that the Plateau of the West is not much regarded by the people of Li’is, but it is perfectly suited for our needs. If we were granted those uplands, we could live there and also protect the Western Farmlands until the new Fortress is built, and guard the way across the Plateau to the Seacoast Town and its villages.” Baran looked at Tamor, and said, “I see no objection to that, if you agree, Lord Tamor. Those lands are unpeopled and we would not be displacing anyone in giving them to the Ketai.” “I agree”, Tamor said. “The Ketai have been faithful allies in the battle against the Dark Lord, and we should show them our gratitude. Ket-Jal is prepared to keep watch over the Western lands too. It is an arrangement which benefits everyone.” Brann said, “I would be very willing to give your people the uplands, Ket-Jal, but would they not be very cold in winter? You say you live in tents, and they would not provide much protection from bad weather. ” Ket-Jal smiled, “Oh, our tents are perhaps sturdier than you think, Brann. But if it is too cold, we might seek shelter among the Western towns. Our women are fine weavers, and could continue with their craft and sell their fabrics in the towns.” “And once the Western Fortress is built”, Tamorine contributed, “the Ketai could overwinter there, and be part of the Watch.” “We have means”, Ket-Jal said, “to buy cattle and horses once we are settled, and can breed and sell them to support ourselves. we need not be a burden on the people of Li’is.” Everyone was satisfied, with the arrangement, and so it was agreed.

The feasting and celebrations came to an end, with Rafel and the Lightfriends leading them all in a prayer of thanksgiving. Now it was time for partings. Gamlin and Kerrin had agreed to stay at the Harbour with some of the Mountain forces, to help with the work there, but Tamor, Tamran and Tamorine, with the rest of the forces, must return to the Fortress. Tamor explained, ” When Tamran did not return, we held a ceremony where Tamorine was accepted by all the Forest people as my Heir. Now that Tamran has returned, we must hold another ceremony, to show that she freely relinquishes the place of Heir to her brother, and to honour her for her time and work as Heir.” Brann said, “I am sorry to be parted from you, Tamorine, my heart. But I am Heir to the Harbour, and this is where I must be, to work with my father and our people and our brothers of the Mountains as we prepare for the attack on the East.” “I know”, she answered him, “and when the time comes to sail, I will be back to fight alongside you, with Tamran.” Tamor gathered his forces and family ready to depart. Brann noticed that Ranella, Tamorine and Tamran’s mother, mounted the horse which had been brought for her as easily as the others. Now that the road from the Fortress had been reopened, they could ride between there and the Harbour. Brann took Tamorine in a tender farewell embrace before she mounted, and watched the party as they rode off, followed by the Mountain Swordsmen. He felt very strange, not only because Tamorine was his love, but because she was also his Sword-Brother and comrade. He felt he was losing a part of himself. Then he chided himself for his emotion. She had not gone forever, they were betrothed and she was within easy riding distance. But each of them had plenty to do still in the fight against Darkness.

A busy time ensued for all. In the Harbour it was discovered that though the fleeing mercenaries had taken all the ships tied up at the Harbour in their vain attempt to escape, there were two vessels moored at the jetty by the repair sheds awaiting repair, and little needed to be done to make them seaworthy. They had the two ships that had carried Brann and Tamorine and the others from the Seacoast Town, so the shipwrights would not have so much work to do after all, making new ships. Two more would suffice. The Shipfathers and their mariners had been augmented by other crews which had escaped the mercenaries before they sailed, and all of them were angered by the loss of the sailors who had been forced to sail into the deadly Two-Moon Tide and lost their lives. They wanted to avenge them by doing their part in attacking the mercenaries of the East. Tree felling was still going on and the timbers sawn to provide materials for the new ships, metalworkers were doing their part, and sailworkers preparing the sails. Work had begun too on the draining of the swampy ground near the site of the proposed new City, since it was not the season for the Swamp Fever and they wanted to get as many drainage ditches dug as possible before it was too dangerous to continue. The LIghtfriends were teaching the Way of Light and helping those who needed the aid of their Perception, Rafel leading them in that, and in the establishment of the Place of Prayer in the cavern that had been a refuge for the vulnerable and which it was hoped would one day form the focus of a Temple of Light, when the City came to be built. Brann was occupied with all of this, along with his Sword-Brethren of Harbour and Fortress, and though he missed Tamorine’s presence, he did not have much time to be alone with his thoughts of her. He hoped she was just as busy at the Fortress and happy with her family, and that she knew he would be thinking of her. It was not until several weeks had passed that he had an opportunity to see her. Baran had a message to be taken to Tamor, about the progress with the ships, and had suggested that Gamlin should carry it, but Gamlin smiled, and said, “I think, Lord Baran, that you have a messenger who would be more welcome than I, if you can spare Brann. My Lady Tamorine would be delighted to see him. ” Baran laughed, and agreed, and so it was Brann who set off riding up the reopened road that rose up the flank of the mountain to the Fortress.

He was joyful at the thought of seeing Tamorine again, and glad when he heard the thunder of the Falls of Vandar that told him he was nearing the Fortress. He recalled the climb up the Stairway beside the Falls, and was glad that he did not have to go that way today. Though the air had been mild, it was growing chillier, and he was glad of his cloak as he came out on the Fortress Level under the shadow of the mountain. After riding across the Fortress Level to the gates of the Fortress, Brann answered the challenge of the guards and was admitted. Enquiring the whereabouts of the Lord of the Mountains, he was directed to the Great Hall. As he entered, he brushed past a woman in a hooded cloak, who was leaving the building. “Oh, your pardon, Lady…” he began, but was stopped by a burst of laughter. She threw back her hood, and exclaimed, “Oh, Brann, do you not recognise your betrothed?” He stared, then laughed too. Used to her in male attire and battle harness, he had indeed not recognised Tamorine, at first. Now he gazed at her in admiration. She wore a gown of a deep forest green embroidered with gold thread, and her cloak was in a thicker, plain fabric of the same green, held with a gold pin. The colour made her eyes seem more green than hazel. Her honey-coloured hair was loose, held with a golden circlet round her brow. She laughed again at his surprised gaze, and teased him, “What, my love, have you never seen a woman before?” “Not this one!”, he laughed, “Where is my Sword-Brother?” Suddenly serious, she answered, “I am and always will be your Sword-Brother, my heart”. “I know”, he said, and took her in his arms. “But do not think I do not admire this new Tamorine. My Lady of the Mountains…” He bent and kissed her, and felt her warm response. “Where were you going?”, he asked her, “Do I interrupt an errand?” “No, I was coming to meet you. The guards sent word that you were coming here.” “I bring a message from my father to Lord Tamor”, he told her, “and of course I wished to see you, my love.” She smiled at him, and said, “I have missed you. But it is good to know that all is going well.” “My father wished to tell Lord Tamor that we are progressing well. We shall have our fleet soon, and then we must deal with the renegades in the East.” We make progress here too”, Tamorine answered. ” Tamran is reinstated as Heir, our people were so glad to see him return. He has undertaken to make some changes to the Stairway, so it is less dangerous to climb if we need to use that way at any time. It can be easily defended if need be. And my grandfather is obtaining stone and other building materials to reinforce the Fortress. The Lightfriends have been teaching the Way of Light, and we are hopeful that in a few days we can bring back those who were at the haven and return them to the families. Some of the Lightfriends intend to stay there, and make it their base to reach out to the villagers round about, since we sent out messengers to tell them that the Dark Lord was defeated and they could return safely to their homes.”

They went into the Great Hall and found Lord Tamor and Tamran there. They were pleased to see Brann, and to hear his report. “We are moving on well”, Tamran commented. Brann said “Tamorine tells me you intend to bring home those from the haven.” “Yes”, Tamran replied. “The Lightfriends here have been in contact with those at the haven and all are well enough to be moved now, even those who were most seriously wounded. Your cousin Javan is among them, and has made a good recovery.” “Ah, that is good”, Brann said, ” his brother Jamin will be relieved, and Tavan his other cousin too.” “Li’is is changing for the better already”, Tamran said. “The people are accepting the Way of Light and are grateful to the Lightfriends for their part in the defeat of the Dark Lord.” “Have they been told that the Lightstone-Bearer and the Lightfriends, and the Ketai, have come from Ma’al?” Brann asked. “I wondered how we could explain that without causing fear.” “No”, Tamor explained, “we thought it best to say only that they had come from the North to teach the Way of Light and fight against the Darkness. That is true, as far as it goes, and will not cause alarm.” “Then I will tell my father to say the same to any who enquire”, Brann agreed, “though for now there is such relief at the Dark Lord’s downfall and such need to restore life to normal, that such questions, I think, are far from the minds of the people. Is Marvis here?” Brann asked then, thinking to renew acquaintance with the man who had begun all this for him, but Tamorine answered, “Not at the moment. He has gone to visit his son at his foster mother’s.” “How does the babe fare?” Brann enquired. “He is thriving”, Tamor replied, “and a source of great joy to Marvis, something to live for since the rest of his family were destroyed. You did well by him, Brann.”

Having delivered his message and spent some time in discussion with Tamor and Tamran, Brann was free to spend some time with Tamorine before he returned to the Harbour. They went out of the Fortress gates and across the Fortress Level to the head of the Falls of Vandar. The White River’s tributaries, rising as broad streams from underground springs by the rocky wall of the Fortress Cave, gathered together here and hurled themselves over the Falls in a rush of white water. Tamorine pointed out the beginning of Tamran’s work on the Stairway beside it. The rough foot and hand holds were being deepened and new ones cut out. “It will still be the difficult way to reach us here”, she said, “but easier for a friend to climb in time of danger, and one man could still defend the head of the Stairway.” She looked back over her shoulder at the memorial stone she had shown Brann when they had first met, and added “I am glad that it will be the Stairway that is Tamran’s memorial, not that stone.” Brann asked, “How has it been with you here, now that Tamran has returned? I know you were glad to have him restored as Heir, but it must have felt strange to you to step down from the place you have held for so long.” “I am so glad to have my brother back, that nothing else here mattered”, she replied, ” but Tamran has been insistent that I share in decisions as before. And if he had not accomplished his task and returned to us, you and I could not have been betrothed. I owe him so much.” “Then so do I”, Brann said. He took her hand, and went on, “When we have regained the Eastern lands – and with Light’s aid we will – then we can think of our own future, my heart.” Tamorine smiled. “One more battle together, Brann, and Li’is will be free. Then we can wed.”

Published by afaithbasedfantasytrilogy

I'm first and foremost a Christian. I'm also a widow, mother of 5, grandmother of 9, and a retired school librarian.

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