FIRST LIGHT

Chapter 17

It had taken some days for all that needed to be done in the Harbour Town of the East to be finished. Rafel, with Mihel’s aid, and the Lightfriends’, had been constantly occupied. Most of the townsfolk and , surprisingly, many of the mercenaries had been turned to Light, and even some of those who had held high rank under the Dark Lord’s ‘Lord of the East’. Brann, Tamran and Tamorine’s forces had been helping to restore the town to some kind of order, resettling families and sharing out the supplies hoarded in the warehouses at the Harbour for the use of the elite of the town. At last Rafel, Ket-Jal, Brann, Tamorine and Tamran, with an escort of Swordsmen and Ketai, had ridden with the prisoners who would not forswear their service to the Dark Lord to the place where the Dancers guarded the Dark Lord’s sorcery-built entrance into Li’is. The prisoners had been given one last chance to take the Choice of Light, but all refused, and so the Dancers sent them through the portal into Ma’al, and sealed it up. Rafel sighed. “There, it is done. The Dark Lords may try to break through into Li’is again, but it would take them centuries of sorcery, and Li’is would be ready.” Brann asked “What if we need to send more through to Ma’al, Rafel? We have yet to deal with the mercenaries who guard the workers on the Eastern shores.” “The Dancers will deal with that, if necessary”, Rafel replied. He had taken the Lightstone in his hands and now gazed into it, sending out his Perception. They waited silently, respecting his preoccupation, until he let the Stone fall again, and said, “We are being watched.”

“Mercenaries?” asked Tamorine, forestalling Brann, but Rafel said, “No. A lone watchman. Not a Child of Darkness. He keeps watch for the refugees in the mountains.” “Then should we not speak to him?” asked Tamran. “No”, Rafel said again. “He will slip away if we approach, and we would not wish him to think we intend him harm, and carry word back to the others. We will ignore him.” They turned back towards the Harbour Town, following Rafel’s instructions, and Tamorine said, “I wonder what that watchman will tell the Lord of the East? Let us hope it will be favourable to us, since we hope to find him.” “We have the seaman whose kin are among the workers”, Tarn said. “He believed they knew more about the whereabouts of the refugees than they had told him. If he can convince them that we mean no harm, they may lead us to the Lord of the East.” Rafel said, “When we reach the Harbour Town we must prepare to sail round to the Eastern shores. We will not need a large force this time, there are few mercenaries there, and if we arrive in large numbers we will alarm the fugitives from the Dark Lord.”

The Shipfathers and their crews were ready to sail when ordered, and Brann sought out the seaman who had told them about the refugees in the mountains. “Do you think your kinsman will be willing to help us find the Lord of the East?” Brann asked. “If he is certain that we mean no harm”, the seaman replied, “and your freeing the metal and stone workers will prove that to them.” Accordingly, the leaders gathered together to make plans. Tarn and Gamlin were to remain at the Harbour Town with half of the troops, the Lightfriends and the Ketai, to continue getting the town in order and its citizens back to a normal way of life. The town building had been restored to a meeting place for those who would help to run the town. The one who had been named ‘Lord of the East’ by the Dark Lord had scorned the official residence that went with that title, taking over the town building instead, but now the Hall of the Lord of the East was being restored too, in hope of finding its rightful occupant. Rafel, with the faithful attendance of Ket-Jal and some of his Ketai, and just three of the Lightfriends, in case of the need of communication through the Thought-without-Words, would lead the search for the missing Lord. Mihel would be with him, naturally, as well as Brann, Tamorine and Tamran, whose presence, as Heirs to the Lordships of the West, should help to reassure the Lord of the East of their good intentions. They were taking the rest of the troops, and most of the horses, to help transport the refugees back to the ships, when they found them.

Once all was arranged, they boarded the two newest ships and set sail along the coast of the Eastern Continent. The mountain range that ran along the whole spine of the continent came right down to the sea, and the Shipfathers had to be cautious of hidden rocks underwater, but they passed safely and continued round to the drier Eastern coast. There had been some desert on the Western side, but it was mostly fertile and suitable for farming. The Eastern side, though, was a much harsher environment, drier and much less fertile. No wonder, thought Brann, that only miners, metal workers, and workers in the stone quarries lived here. It was an uninspiring landscape. At length they sighted the small harbour that served the stone and metal works. It was not stone-built like Brann’s own Harbour or the one on the Western coast here. A large cove formed a natural harbour, with wooden jetties built for the ships to tie up. Beyond was a roughly paved area, various wooden buildings, and a wooden watchtower. They could make out figures on the tower, armed with bows. Brann said, “Those guards will be a danger to us once we begin the attack. Ket-Jal, can your bowmen deal with them?” Ket-Jal studied the towers, and said, ” There are not so many mercenaries up there, and all of the Ketai are skilled bowmen. They will not outmatch us, Brann, but best to deal with them quickly, if they will not surrender.” The ships sailed into the cove and made for the jetties. A few workmen came out to help tie up the ships alongside, and, as at the Harbour Town, the few mercenaries guarding them showed no particular interest in the vessels. However, when they saw who it was that began to disembark, they paid more attention, and two of them came across, one of whom addressed Brann. “Who are you? We were not told of any reinforcements being sent. What is happening?” This time Rafel kept silent, and it was Brann who answered. “We are not reinforcements. The Dark Lord and his followers have been defeated, and we are here to take you prisoner and take over this harbour.” The man’s eyes widened, and he turned as if to shout an order, but Brann’s men had him and his companion captured before he could act. The Ketai bowmen had their weapons trained on the watchtower, and Brann and Tamorine’s forces soon rounded up the other mercenaries , who were too startled or unwilling to fight. Brann shouted to those in the watchtower to lay down their bows and surrender, or face his bowmen. Seeing themselves outnumbered, they complied, and descended the ladders. The workmen on the jetties had made no attempt to withstand Brann and Tamorine’s forces, and Brann guessed they too had been enslaved. Now one of them, who seemed to be in charge of them, came forward and timidly asked Brann, “Sir, what is happening?”

Only now did Rafel speak. “Your slavery is over, friend. We are the Children of Light. We have defeated and destroyed the Dark Lord and his followers in the West, and in the Eastern Harbour. We are here now to complete the liberation of the Eastern Continent.” The man said, “If that is so, then free our wives and families. They are held in the buildings yonder, to force us to comply with the mercenaries.” “Show us”, Brann said, and the man and his fellow workers willingly led them to the buildings. As in the Harbour Town, the imprisoned families were held in basements, in poor conditions, and the reunions were joyous. There was a second group of families, though, which none of the harbour workers claimed, but explained that they belonged to some of the metal and stone workers further along the coast. “We will free your menfolk too”, Tamorine assured them. They questioned the harbour workers, and learned that there were watchtowers at the stone quarry and the mine and metalworking site too, but that the number of mercenaries at each was low, as there would be nowhere for those workers to escape to in such inhospitable surroundings. The mercenaries they had captured here were locked in the buildings that had held the hostage families, and guard set over them, and Brann called for the seaman with kin among the metal workers. “Can you lead us to the mines and the metal workings?” he asked the man. “I can”, the man assured him. He looked round at the women and children who had been freed, and added, “I see my cousin’s wife and their children here.” In the joy and hubbub of being freed, it seemed the woman had not noticed him, but when he called her name, she looked up and then hurried across to him, followed by a tall lad and a younger girl. “Gart!”, she exclaimed, “Oh, cousin, are you among our rescuers?” “I sailed with them”, he answered,” and now we will free your man and his friends, and all the others. And then..” he paused, and lowered his voice, “..we will seek for the rightful Lord of the East, to return his rule to him.” She looked startled. “Gart, have a care!” “Have no fear, Venna”, he answered, seeing her stare at Rafel. “This is Rafel, the Lightstone-Bearer and Friend of Light. He brings us Light, and is the sworn enemy of the Darkness that has enslaved us. It is he, with my Lord Brann and my Lady Tamorine, who destroyed the Dark Lord.” Rafel smiled at the woman. “He speaks truth, and you need not fear us. We have come to bring you the Way of Light and an end of Darkness in Li’is. We are no friends of the Dark Lords.” The woman Venna, seemingly satisfied, said, “Very well, I trust you, Lightstone-Bearer. ” She slipped a hand inside her gown and withdrew a small cloth bag on a thong , which she lifted from around her neck and handed to Gart. “When you see my man, give him this. It will be a token to him that I am free and that I trust you. Then he will help you. No…” she commanded, as Gart made to look into the bag, “..do not open it. Give it to him untouched. That is our agreement.” Brann said, “Thank you for your help, Lady Venna.” She smiled at him, “I am no Lady, sir, just a simple woman.” “But loyal to your Lord, I think”, Brann replied, ” and that makes you a Lady.”

Leaving some of their men to guard their prisoners and help the freed captives, Rafel and the rest set off for the mines and quarry, with Gart showing them the way. It was not far, and they soon sighted the first watchtower. Only one man held it, and they approached cautiously, keeping to what cover there was among the rocks and scrubby bushes. They could see three other mercenaries, also armed with bows, keeping guard over the mine entrance and the nearby metal working sheds. Brann thought that it was likely the threat to their imprisoned families rather than the presence of the mercenaries that kept the workers complying with their bondage, as surely there were enough workers to have attacked and overcome the mercenaries, even if some had been wounded or killed in the attempt. When they were close enough, they broke into a gallop and rode down on the startled mercenaries, who were captured and disarmed before they could fire. The one man in the watchtower managed to loose a couple of arrows before finding himself the target of several Ketai bows. His shots did no harm, and he was forced to come down and surrender. It seemed the workers were all in the mines or the metal-working sheds, for none had appeared, despite the hubbub. Maybe, thought Brann, they thought the mercenaries were fighting among themselves, and had no wish to interfere. He turned to the seaman Gart. “Where are the miners and workers, Gart?” Gart replied, ” The miners are in the tunnels of the mines, working, and will not come out until they are given permission. The metal workers are locked in the worksheds and will not be released until the mercenaries unlock the doors.” Brann nodded, and ordered the captured mercenaries to hand over the keys to the work sheds. “Will your kinsman be among them, Gart?” he asked, and the seaman said, “Yes, he is one of the best workers in metal.” “Then best you come with us to free them”, Brann told him, ” as it will reassure the workers that we are not mercenaries come to harm them.”

They crossed to the sheds, and unlocked the doors, calling to those inside to come out. The workers emerged, blinking in the sunlight after their long stay in the sheds. Gart indicated a man, medium of stature , with a shock of dark hair and beard, and said, “There is my cousin.” He called out, ” Tirik! Come here, cousin!” The man looked up, startled, and frowned. He came across to them, but with a belligerent air. “Gart! Do you come with our enemies? You have betrayed us!” “No enemies”, Brann said, before Gart could answer. “We are the enemies of the Dark Lord and all who serve him.” He indicated Rafel, “This is the Lightstone-Bearer. He has defeated the Dark Lord, and comes to bring the Way of Light to all Li’is.” “I do not understand”, Tirik answered, still wary of them. Gart said, “Cousin, these people mean us only good. As Lord Brann said, they have defeated the Dark Lord and his servants in the West, and have sailed here to free the East also. They have taken the Harbour Town, and the harbour here, and freed the captives. I have seen Venna, and your children. They are safe and well, and she told me to give you this.” He took out the little cloth bag on its thong and handed it to his cousin. Tirik’s expression changed to one of relief. He took the little bag, and Brann understood why Venna had told Gart not to open it, for the drawstring was stitched down, to show that it had not been interfered with, and Tirik had to break the stitches to open the bag. He tipped out the contents into his hand; small, seemingly insignificant things they were, a dried flower, a small lock of hair tied with a thin cord, and a scrap of white cloth with some minute writing on it. Tirik smiled, and nodded. “These are Venna’s tokens, and she would not have given them up to an enemy, even under torture. They say I can trust you.”

Brann asked, “How can we call the miners out? They are still in the tunnels and do not know we have captured their guards.” Tirik said “There is a signal horn hung by the mine entrance. Sound three long blasts on that, and they will come.” Brann despatched one of his men to sound the signal, and after a short time the miners began to emerge into the sunlight, dusty and dishevelled, wondering why they were summoned at a time that was not usual to them. Gart and Tirik, being known to the men, went with Brann and the others to speak to the miners and reassure them. As with the metal workers, these men were suspicious and cautious at first, but were eventually assured of the fact that their rescuers meant them no harm, and that their families were safe under the care of a handful of Brann’s forces and Ketai and a Lightfriend in the harbour. Now there were the stone quarries to attend to, and the stone workers to be freed too. Questioning of their prisoners had revealed that , as here, there were only a very few mercenaries and the bowman in the watchtower to deal with, so Tamran, with some of the Ketai, took the larger part of their force to the quarries, along with Gart and Tirik to show the way and assure their fellow captives that these men meant them no harm, and were in fact here to free them. Meanwhile, Brann, Tamorine and Rafel gathered the rescued miners and metal workers and explained to them more fully what had happened in the West, and here in the East, and about the Way of Light. When the many questions had been answered, and reassurance given about the safety of their families who had been held hostage, Brann said, “There was one in the Harbour Town, set there by the Dark Lord, who had usurped the title of Lord of the East. He has been dealt with and sent back to his Dark master. Now we hope to find any that remain of the line of the true Lords of the East, and restore them to their rightful place. If any of you can help us in this, we will be grateful.”

Brann was aware of glances being exchanged, and some murmuring, among the workers they had liberated. It seemed that, though they had been reassured about the good intentions of their rescuers, they were still wary of giving any hint of the whereabouts of those Brann and the others were seeking. Brann did not press them, but let them discuss the matter between themselves. At length one man, who seemed to have been elected spokesman for the rest, said, “You have shown that we can trust you, but we must still be cautious. Permit us to send a messenger to seek out those who are in hiding, and ask if they wish to meet with you.” Brann glanced at Tamorine and Rafel, who signalled their agreement, then said, “I cannot fault you in this, for they have had need to be wary in the past. Send your messenger, and we will await your Lord’s reply.” “Very well”, the spokesman replied, and turned to one of the younger metal-workers, giving him instructions in an undertone. Brann said “We can provide a mount for your messenger”, but the spokesman replied, ” That would only alarm those we seek, since the only ones who seek them on horseback are their enemies. He will do well on foot.” Brann nodded, and the selected messenger set out towards a track that led inland. Brann and the others deliberately did not watch where he went, to reassure the workmen that they were not spying on his route. Shortly after the messenger had set out, a clatter of hooves announced the return of Tamran and his men. They had the mercenaries from the stone quarries as prisoners, and the stone workers followed on behind their forces, and were welcomed by their fellow workers. Gart and Tirik had reassured them that their families were free and safe, and they were full of gratitude to their rescuers. Rafel gathered them together and spoke to them about the fall of the Dark Lord and the Way of Light, while Brann and Tamorine told Tamran that a message had been sent to the refugee Lord of the East in the mountains. “Let us hope he is willing to meet us”, Tamran said, “for he must have good reason to be very cautious.”

Tamorine said, “We have had success so far, but we must set things in order. These men and our troops need to be fed, and take some rest, and the prisoners must be dealt with. ” “The prisoners we must leave to Rafel, once they are safely locked up”, Brann said, “since they must either take the Choice of Light or be sent to the Dark Lords in Ma’al, and that is his work. But the rest we can manage.” They ascertained from Tirik that there were stores of food in one of the buildings. “They know we cannot do such strenuous work if we are starving, so they feed us enough, though it is poor fare”, he told them. Augmented by the stores they had brought on the ships in case of need, there was enough to prepare a good meal for all, and then, with their prisoners secured, they were able to make the Evening Prayers, with the workers observing, though not taking part since they had not yet accepted Light, though they seemed willing. After that they went to rest, the miners and metal workers in their usual accommodation, the stone workers in another building which the mercenaries had used, and Brann, Tamorine, Rafel, and their weary troops returning to the ships. “Pray Light the messenger returns tomorrow”, Brann said, ” and brings a favourable answer from the refugee Lord.” “He will”, said Mihel, who was with them. Those who knew his true identity were reassured, while the others hoped he was right.

Next morning, after the Morning Prayers, Rafel, with Mihel’s aid, set about his work with the mercenary prisoners. As there were so few, Brann and Tamorine hoped that it would not take him too long, and not be as exhausting for him as dealing with the other Children of Night in the City and the Eastern Harbour. Those here were not those high among the followers of the Dark Lord, and their experience with other of the mercenaries of the East had been encouraging. The freed workmen had been visited by the Healers and examined for signs of harm caused by their labour and imprisonment, but all were unscathed but for the usual small hurts which were to be expected from their work. It seemed the mercenaries had not been as brutal in their treatment of their captives as some of their fellows. “In some ways”, Tamran commented, “the mercenaries were prisoners of the Dark Lord as much as those they held captive. We saw at the Eastern Harbour how young the boys taken for training as mercenaries were, and how cruelly treated.” “I hope that Rafel can turn them to Light”, Tamorine replied, “for to be sent to the Otherworld, the Dark world, to serve the Dark Lords – that is a dreadful fate.” “When first I learned from Rafel that the mercenaries were men of Li’is and had not come here from Ma’al, I heard it with horror”, Brann said. “I thought that they had thrown in their lot with the Dark Lord from greed of riches or power. Now I see that, though that might have been so in the beginning, those who followed them in the Dark Lord’s service had no choice, but were forced into the life as children. ” “Just as the girls were forced into servile tasks or taken as courtesans”, Tamorine said. “There is much evil to be undone.” “Li’is will be free”, said a voice behind them, “and at peace under the Rule of Light”. They turned to see Mihel, with Rafel a few paces behind him. “Rafel! ” Tamran exclaimed, “Is your work done so soon?” Rafel came up to them, smiling. “It is. These few mercenaries, far from the influence of the Dark Lord, served him more from fear than any thought of advantage for themselves. And they were not without conscience, for though they treated the workmen harshly, still they did not use such cruelty as others we have seen. They fed them adequately, as Tirik said, and allowed any who were sick or injured to rest for a while, instead of forcing them to work on. Light showed them their own evil, but also that their small kindnesses were pleasing to Light. It has been hard work, helping them with my Perception, but all have repented and accepted Light, praise Light!” “And the change in the mercenaries will be enough to help persuade any of the workers who are still hesitant to accept Light”, Mihel added. “Rafel has done a good work here.”

Afternoon came, and with it the return of the messenger sent into the mountains. Another man was with him, and Rafel, Perceiving him, told Brann, Tamorine and Tamran, “It is the man who watched us send the Dark Lord’s followers back to Ma’al.” As the men approached, Rafel and the others were joined by Ket-Jal, to await the expected reply to their message. Coming up to them, the messenger said, “I have taken your message into the mountains, and this man, who shall be nameless for now, has come to speak with you.” Brann nodded, and said, “What have you to say, friend?” The man who faced them was tanned by outdoor living, tall and dark-haired, but with eyes of an unusual, almost amber hue. He was about of an age with Brann and Tarn, and had a Swordsman’s stature and stance. Brann wondered, for a moment, if this could be the hidden Lord of the East, but decided that it could not be. Such a risk would not be taken. The man said, “First, a question. I saw you ride out with certain of the Dark Lord’s followers and mercenaries. At first I thought you were among them, but then I saw you had them prisoner. You went to a certain place that we know as a place of evil, but you did not seem afraid. Then strange flames appeared, and you sent your prisoners between them – and they disappeared! The flames vanished too, and you rode back to the Harbour Town. If you are not of Darkness, what sorcery was this?” Rafel stepped forward. “It was no sorcery, friend, but a work of Light. I am the Lightstone-Bearer, and I and my companions were sent into Li’is from the remnant that remain of the followers of Light in the Dark world of Ma’al, from where came the Dark Lord. We were tasked with ending the rule of Darkness in Li’is, so that it would not fall under the same condemnation as Ma’al, and of turning the people of Li’is to the Way of Light. The flames you saw are the Dancers, living beings which protect Li’is and other worlds, and set the rhythm of life here by their Song. They sent the Children of Night back into Ma’al by the portal the Dark Lords made by sorcery, to send one of their number here to rule. Then they sealed the portal, and guard it, so they cannot return. Do you understand all this?”

The man shook his head. “Not all of it, but you do not seem evil. And this Swordsman” – he indicated Ket-Jal – “does not look like a mercenary, nor any Swordsman I have seen. Did he come here with you at the bidding of this Light?” “I did” Ket-Jal affirmed, “I and my people. We are the sworn guardians of the Lightfriends, all that are left of the Priesthood of Light who the Dark Lords have tried to hunt down and destroy. We are the Ketai.” The man looked round at them, considering. “And you have truly defeated the Dark Lord?” Tamran answered him, “Rafel the Lightstone-Bearer, Brann the True Sword, and Tamorine of the Mountains, with their forces, took the Dark Lord’s citadel. The Lightstone was stronger than his sorcery, because it is powered by Light. The Dark Lord’s mortal body was destroyed, and the Dark spirit that powered it forced back into Ma’al.” The man took a few moments to absorb this, then asked “And you are Lords from the West?” “Their Heirs”, Brann told him. “I am the son of Baran, Lord of the Harbour and Forest”. Tamran spoke next “I am Tamran. I am the Heir of the Mountains, but I was away for many years on a trail of my own, and presumed dead, so my sister Tamorine here was declared Heir in my absence.” “And have gladly given place to my brother, now he has returned to us”, said Tamorine, smiling at Tamran. The man regarded them steadily, and then spoke again, but now he was speaking not in the common speech, but in the flowing cadences of the Old Tongue. “Then if you are Heirs to the Lords of Li’is, answer me in the tongue we knew of old.” Brann smiled, and answered in the Old Tongue, “Truly, the Old Tongue still lives, though few speak it, and we are among them.” Now the man smiled in return, and said, “Good! I trust you. You will come with me – not all of you, only your leaders, and the metalsmith Tirik, who can testify to your deeds here.”

“Very well”, Rafel said, before the others could answer. Trusting his Perception, they did not question his decision, and arrangements were swiftly made. Jamin and Tavan were tasked with taking charge of matters here until the leaders returned. The Lightfriends would continue with Light’s work among those freed by their forces, and the Ketai would guard them. Brann instructed Jamin and Tavan, “Let our forces and the freed workmen rest and learn more of Light, but keep a guard in case any of the Dark ones have escaped to attempt harm.” Ket-Jal put his son in charge of the Ketai warriors, and , once satisfied that all was in hand, they prepared to accompany their anonymous guide. Brann, Tamorine, Tamran, Rafel and Ket-Jal, along with Mihel, and Tirik, were to go with him. “We will go on foot”, the man said, “horsemen would cause alarm.” Just before they were to set off, Tirik disappeared for a few moments into the metalworking shed and came out carrying a thin, square bag of coarse cloth. Something was contained inside, but they could not see what, though it was obviously not a weapon. The man led them along a dusty track to the foot of the mountains, a seemingly endless range which ran off into the far distance, growing paler and hazier to the sight. There was some scrubby vegetation and a few twisted trees, but mostly bare rock, very different from the forested slopes of Tamran and Tamorine’s mountains. Brann wondered how the fugitives could have lived in such hostile surroundings. Their guide led them by steep ascents and narrow cols deeper into the mountains, obviously well used to his route. At length he led them into a cavern, and Brann thought that this might be where those they sought were hiding, but the man led them on, and after traversing a dark tunnel, they saw faint light ahead. Eventually they came out onto a rock-strewn slope, and Tamorine gave a little exclamation. The descent looked perilous, but at the bottom was a small, green valley, with a little stream running through, and some trees. There were huts in the valley, built of makeshift materials, but habitable. Their guide said, “This is where we have made our home, since there are few places in the mountains nearby which are both hidden and will support us.” No one passing by that cave entrance would guess it led here”, Brann said. ” And we guard it well”, the man answered. “You did not see our watchwards, but they were there.”

Rafel said, “And are you ready now to tell us your true identity? For I Perceive that you are someone of importance here, though not the Lord we seek.” The man stared at him for a moment, then smiled, and said, “Truly, this Light gives you strange powers, Lightstone-Bearer, though not evil powers, I think. Very well. My name is Hanan, and I am cousin to the true Lord of the East.” Tirik said, “That is so, Lightstone-Bearer, and it was to Lord Hanan that our messenger was sent.” Brann said, “Then it is good to meet you, Lord Hanan, and I hope we shall meet your cousin soon.” “Come”, Hanan said, turning to the slope. “Take heed of your footing, and follow me carefully. There are loose rocks here.” Their descent was slow and cautious, and they followed closely in Hanan’s steps. A couple of small rocks did tumble down the slope, but without causing any harm, and eventually they found themselves standing safely on the rough green turf of the valley floor. Hanan led them across a wood-built bridge over the stream, and towards one of the huts. He stopped outside the building and gave a fluting whistle. There was a moment’s pause, then two young Swordsmen stepped out, followed by a third man, somewhat older. The first-comers took their places on either side of him, evidently guarding him, as he took in his visitors with a level gaze. Brann could see some facial resemblance to Hanan, and the same amber-brown eyes, though this man’s hair and beard were of a lighter, more chestnut brown hue. He was dressed simply, indistinguishable from his guards in that respect. Hanan said, “These are those who sought us, Sword-Brother. I have tested them and am satisfied that they are here to help us.” The other man smiled, and said, “Then welcome, friends. I am Kirnan, true Lord of the East. I see a good friend among you. Tirik, you have done well.” Tirik bowed, and Brann said, “We seek you to return you to your place as Lord of the East, Lord Kirnan. The Dark Lord has been defeated by the power of Light and his rule is over. The Western Continent of LI’is is free, and now here in the East we have defeated his followers and sent those who would not abjure Darkness back into Ma’al, the Dark world.”

Kirnan said, “If that is true, it is good news indeed. What is this power of Light you speak of? And who are these strangers with you? I have not seen their like in Li’is.” A sweep of his arm indicated Rafel and Ket-Jal, but he did not penetrate the Shining One Mihel’s guise as a Swordsman. Brann said,” It is a strange tale, Lord Kirnan, but true. A new power, a great and good power, has come into Li’is, and that is the power of Light. The Lightfriends of Ma’al, hunted and persecuted by the Dark Lords there, and their faithful guardians, the Ketai, have been sent into Li’is at the Word of Light, to defeat the Dark Lord here and to turn Li’is to Light, so that our people will not share the doom of Ma’al.” Kirnan listened, but then asked, “If the power of Light is so great, to defeat the Dark Lord here, then why not in Ma’al also?” Brann looked to Rafel to answer, and the Lightstone-Bearer said, “Lord Kirnan, Light is a power of love, and does not force service. Every created being is free to choose its path. If any choose Darkness over Light, they are free to do so, but must know the consequences. Light is also a power of justice, and will not leave evil unpunished. Ma’al has gone so far from Light that it is now irredeemable, refusing to turn back to Light. Its time of judgement will come. ” Kirnan said, “But we do not know Light. Are we also under judgement?” Rafel replied, “I am the Lightstone-Bearer. I was sent into Li’is to defeat the Dark Lord, but also, with the other Lightfriends, to teach the people of Li’is the Way of Light. If you take the Choice of Light, you become Children of Light, beloved and blameless.” Kirnan responded, “You give us much to consider, Lightstone-Bearer, but if the power of Light has come to restore Li’is to what it was and its people to their rightful places, it is good.” Tamorine said, “Light does indeed restore all, Lord Kirnan. My brother Tamran here was lost to us for many years, but can now take up his rightful place again.” Kirnan looked at her in surprise, and said, “A Swordsmaiden? Surely Light has some surprising allies.” Brann, ready to defend his betrothed, said, “Lady Tamorine was Heir to the Mountains until her brother was found and could reclaim that title. As such, she is joint commander of our forces and has fought with us valiantly and well.” The Lord of the East said hastily, “Your pardon, Lady, I did not mean to deny your valour or sword skill, but I have not known a Swordsmaiden before.” His cousin Hanan said, “All who are enemies of the Dark Lord worked against him in any way they could, man or woman.” “That is true”, Kirnan admitted. He turned towards the hut he had left and said, “Come inside, and we can talk further.”

They followed him into the hut , and when their eyes had adjusted to the dimness, they saw that it was furnished with rough but serviceable furniture, and larger than it had seemed at first glance. A woman was seated on a chair, with a weaving frame beside her and two young children, boy and girl, playing at her feet. Kirnan said, “This is my Lady, Naira, and our children.” Greetings were exchanged, then Kirnan said, “Naira, these strangers are leaders of a force which has defeated the Dark Lord and his followers. They say they will restore my place as Lord of the East.” The woman looked up at him with a pale, intense gaze. “Truly, Kirnan?” She ran a hand through her sandy-blonde hair and added, “Then our son will come into his true inheritance?” “As my father never did”, he said. She looked at her visitors, and said, “Welcome, all of you. It is glad news that you bring us.” Brann said, “We have horses ready to take you to the harbour here, and ships to carry you to the Harbour Town, you and all who have taken refuge in the mountains. Are you many?” ” Enough to keep our own laws alive, and harry the forces of the Dark Lord”, Kirnan answered. Tamorine asked, “Lord Kirnan, how have you lived here? It was hard enough for my people, and our mountains are well-forested and have sufficient food-beasts and other resources. These mountains of yours are not so friendly.” Kirnan smiled. “That is our disadvantage, but also our advantage. There was nothing here to attract the mercenaries, except a little hunting, rarely successful. We though, have learned over the years where the hidden green places are, as here, and where food-beasts may be found. And we have friends..” he smiled at Tirik, and went on “…who are loyal to us and find means to smuggle supplies to us when they can.” Rafel said, “It was the same with the Lightfriends in Ma’al. We have our hidden places, and our defenders.” “The Ketai?” asked Kirnan. Rafel replied, “The Ketai, yes. And the Malani, another warrior people faithful to Light. They have remained to guard those of the Lightfriends who remain in Ma’al.” “But why did you not all escape?” Kirnan’s Lady, Naira, asked. “The Way of Light must be kept alive, even in Ma’al”, Rafel answered her. “Though it is the Dark world, still from time to time we find those who will accept Light. The Children of Light in Ma’al are few and persecuted, but they exist. We could not leave them , nor cease trying to add to their number.” “This Way of Light must be of great importance” said Kirnan, “if it is worth risking so much for.” “It is the most important thing in life”, Rafel said, “and we have come to teach it to the people of Li’is.”

Hanan said, “We will hear what you have to tell us in time, but for now we must send messengers to our people in the mountains, and tell them to gather here. ” “Tell them that we are here to restore Lord Kirnan to his rightful place”, Brann told him. Now Tirik came forward, and said, “By your leave, Lord Brann, I have something to say to my Lord Kirnan.” “Certainly”, Brann said, making place for the metalworker. Kirnan said, “What is it, Tirik? I know you are a loyal friend.” Tirik said, “Lord KIrnan, my family have been the servants of the Lords of the East since before the Dark Lord came into Li’is. When that happened, your ancestors gave mine the keeping of certain things until they could be returned to the true Lord of the East. That day has now come, and I have brought you these.” He reached into the cloth bag they had seen him carry out of the metal-working shed, and brought out a circlet of twisted gold bands, finely worked together, and a gold chain bearing several enamelled badges. Brann, Tamran and Tamorine, of Lordly families themselves, knew instantly what they were; the circlet and family badges that proclaimed the Lordship of the wearer. Tirik said, ” Your family, Lord Kirnan, and mine, their metalsmiths, were determined that these emblems should not fall into the hands of an impostor. They are rightfully yours, and I am glad that I can now return them to you.” Kirnan, visibly moved, exclaimed, “Ah, you are more faithful than I ever knew, Tirik, my good friend! I had thought these things long ago stolen and defiled by the Dark Lord’s lackey.” “Not so, my Lord”, Tirik said, “for my family took them and hid them, and no false ‘Lord of the East’ has ever worn them.” Naira said, “Your family has done well, Tirik, and these symbols will prove Kirnan the true Lord of the East.” “Send your messengers, Lord Kirnan”, Rafel said, “and we will wait for your people to gather. Will it take long?” “A day or so”, Kirnan said, “and in the meantime you are welcome to stay here with us. You can tell us more of this Way of Light.”

Kirnan’s messengers had been sent out, and those of his people who were here with him in the little valley had been gathered and told the glad news that their Lord was to be returned to his rightful place. All were ready to listen to Rafel, since he had been instrumental in the Dark Lord’s defeat, and were quiet and respectful as he told them of the Way of Light, and how they could become Children of Light. Brann and the others stood by as the Lightstone-Bearer spoke, and Brann noted that Mihel had his gaze concentrated on Rafel, no doubt helping him by guiding his Perception. He had grown so used to Mihel in his Swordsman guise, that sometimes he forgot what an awesome being the Shining One really was. As Rafel concluded his explanation, there was a pause, as if his listeners considered what he had said. Then Kirnan said, “This Way of Light seems right to me, Lightstone-Bearer. You offer us the Choice of Light, and I am ready to take it.” He turned to his Lady and said, “Naira?” “Yes”, she answered, “I will take it also.” Kirnan turned back to Rafel, “What must we do, Lightstone-Bearer?” Rafel said, “I will set my Perception on you, and help you make your peace with Light. You need have no fear, the Lightfriends go nowhere uninvited.” Now Brann spoke up. “That is true, Lord Kirnan. We have experienced Rafel’s Perception. It is a means of healing and will do you no harm.” “Very well”, Kirnan said, and turned towards Rafel, who took his face in cupped hands and set his Perception on him. As always, there was little enough to see, but when Rafel released Kirnan from his Perception, they saw that there was an awed peace on the face of the Lord of the East. Now Rafel said “Receive Light’s blessing”, and touched the Lightstone to Kirnan’s brow. A soft light flowed out of the Stone and enfolded Kirnan momentarily, before receding back into the stone, and Kirnan gave a shuddering sigh, and exclaimed, “Truly, the power of Light is great, and good.” Naira followed him, and then Haran, his cousin, and, seeing their Lord and his family accept the Choice of Light, his people too came forward. It took some time for Rafel to set his Perception on all of them, with no other Lightfriends here to help, but at last all had made their peace with Light, and received the Lightstone’s blessing.

Over the next hours, Kirnan’s followers began to appear in the valley. As Brann had expected, they were mostly Swordsmen and their families, defenders of their Lord. There were some who were older, indeed a few much older, having served Kirnan’s father before him, and Brann asked “Kirnan, how long have your people and their forebears lived among the mountains?” “Long enough for some to live and die here”, Kirnan answered, “for we fled here first in my grandfather’s time, when I was little more than a babe. My grandfather died here , as did my father, and many others. They lie here among the mountains that have been our haven. Always they hoped that the true Lordship would be restored, and at last it has happened.” Haran added, “We lost some before their time, killed by the mercenaries or by the harsh conditions of winter here. But we were resolute.” Rafel said, “When all are assembled, I will send word to our forces to bring horses.” “We can send a messenger”, Hanan said, but Rafel answered, “No need. I can reach my Brothers-in-Light by the Thought-without-Words, if I use the Lightstone to augment my Perception.” Brann said, “I am not sure we will have mounts enough for all, Rafel.” “We are well used to making our way on foot”, Lord Kirnan told him. “Keep the horses for the very old and very young.” Tamran said, “Would it not be as well for your people to see you return mounted, and wearing your family regalia, Lord Kirnan? It would hearten them to see you take your rightful place at their head.” Kirnan’s Lady, Naira, agreed, and he was persuaded.

By the second day, when all Kirnan’s outliers had gathered to him in the little valley, there were many questions, and Brann and Rafel explained again about the downfall of the Dark Lord, and the coming of the Way of Light. It was now late in the day, and Rafel took out the Lightstone and gazed into it, sending out his Perception. Once more Mihel was watching him intently, and Brann felt that the Shining One was also helping Rafel to extend his Perception to the other Lightfriends. At length Rafel let the stone fall on its chain, and said, “There, our friends are reassured that we are safe, and have found Lord Kirnan and his people. They will bring the horses to the foot of the mountains tomorrow.” That done, he led them in the Evening Prayers, before everyone settled down in the valley. The incomers had brought supplies with them, so there was enough to make a simple meal before they encamped for the night.

Next day they set out for the rendezvous, Lord Kirnan leading his people with Naira, and Hanan going a little ahead with Rafel, Brann, and the others. Naira had gone to a clothes chest and produced some garments for Kirnan and herself that were more elegant than their everyday garb, if rather old. “The remnants of my grandfather’s lordly wear!” laughed Kirnan. He had donned the circlet and chain with its family badges which Tirik had brought him, and did look now like a Lord of Li’is. The procession made its way slowly up the treacherous slope to the cavern tunnel, and through to the other side, then down through the secret ways Hanan had followed on the way here. At last they reached the foot of the mountain, where Brann and Tamorine’s Swordsmen were waiting with the horses. Kirnan had them wait with the mounts for himself and Naira until he was sure that all those who would have difficulty managing the comparatively short route to the harbour had been mounted for the journey. His Swordsmen were happy to make the journey on foot, and Brann and the others would have joined them if necessary, but did not need to, so they rode at the head of the column with Rafel, Kirnan, and Naira. As they neared the little harbour and the metal working sheds and mine, Rafel sent out his Perception again, and a crowd began to gather as the freed workers and repentant mercenaries prepared to welcome Kirnan. Rafel had taken the Lord of the East aside and explained to him about the mercenaries, and how they had been enslaved themselves from early childhood to serve the Dark Lord’s figurehead in the East. Told that they had repented and turned to Light, Kirnan’s response had been swift and generous. “How can I condemn them, when I needed Light’s forgiveness and acceptance as much as they?” he had said. Some of his friends had needed a little more persuasion, but at last all had agreed that no harm should be done to the former mercenaries. The families of the released workers in the mines and quarries, and at the metal works, had made the journey from the little harbour to join them, and there was a large crowd waiting by the time Kirnan and the others reached them. Gart the seaman was one of the first to welcome and acknowledge his Lord, and a joyful hubbub arose among the crowd as they celebrated his return.

After a while, Kirnan signalled for silence, and the crowd stilled as the Lord of the East spoke .”My friends, I know you have stayed loyal to my family through all the cruelty of the Dark Lord, and now you are free, as I am, to return to the way of life we knew. Yet we will not return to the old ways, since the Lightstone-Bearer and the Lightfriends have shown us the Way of Light. As in the West, we here in the East will live under the Rule of Light, which is benevolent and gracious.” He paused, and glanced round at those gathered, then continued, “I see those here who were once mercenaries of the Dark Lord, but have repented and turned to Light. I command that none of you take any vengeance against them, for they too were enslaved, and knew no better. Now they are our brothers under the rule of Light, and will live, like us, as Children of Light.” He waited, but none demurred, and he smiled and said, “Good! Praise Light for the chance to begin anew. ” Brann said, “The Hall of the Lord of the East at the Eastern Harbour had lain empty, since the usurper preferred to take over the Town House as his base. It is being prepared for your arrival, and should be ready by the time we reach the Eastern Harbour.” Kirnan responded, “Thank you, Lord Brann. You and your friends have done me a great service.” He turned again to the crowd, and said, “I must leave you, my friends, and sail to the Eastern Harbour to take up my duties. But your loyalty and bravery will not be forgotten.” Rafel said, “The Lightfriends who came here with us will stay, to help you follow the Way of Light, and rebuild your lives. In time their families will join them, and others will stay at the Eastern Harbour, so you will not be left alone.” Tirik spoke up for the crowd, “The Lightfriends are welcome among us, Lightstone-Bearer, and we will follow their teaching.”

The time had come for Kirnan, his family, and followers to embark . Though they left the Lightfriends behind, still the two vessels were crowded, with people and horses, but it was a joyful time, and no one complained. Kirnan held counsel with Brann, Tamorine, Tamran, Rafel, and Ket-Jal, discussing future connections between the Eastern and Western continents, and the spread of the Way of Light. “If Lightfriends will stay here, I will have a place built for them in the Eastern Harbour town.” Kirnan said. “And I must appoint one of them to take charge of things here”, Rafel answered. “It will takes some time to establish our places in Li’is, for our families, and those of the Ketai, are still in the North, under the protection of the Dancers, and must be brought down from there.” “The Dancers”, mused Kirnan, “you spoke of them before. I should like to meet them.” “I will ask”, Rafel said, “but I cannot command. They will come only if they wish.” The short voyage back to the Eastern Harbour was uneventful ; Rafel had again sent out the Thought-without-Words, and the Lightfriends at the Harbour had told its inhabitants that their Lord was returning. So there was a happy and expectant crowd waiting to welcome Kirnan when he disembarked. As they neared the Harbour , Kirnan was on deck, gazing at the town which his forebears had fled. “I have seen it from a distance, from the mountains, but never knew if I should set foot here”, he told Brann. They reached the quays and the mariners moored the ships so that they could land. The gates from the Harbour to its town were wide open, to make room for all those who had come to greet Kirnan and the others who were returning from their long exile in the mountains. As they disembarked an excited murmur ran through the crowd. Brann suggested, “They are here to welcome you, Lord Kirnan. Perhaps you should address them.” Kirnan agreed, and the others signalled the crowd to silence. Kirnan raised his voice, and said, “Good people, I thank you for your welcome. I would not be able to take my rightful place as your Lord, though, were it not for our friends from the West, and the Lightstone-Bearer and his Lightfriends, who have defeated the Dark Lord and brought us the Way of Light. They sought me out to bring me back to you, and I shall forever be in their debt.” He glanced round at the others, then continued, “I have vowed that here in the East too we will follow the Way of Light, and some of the Lightfriends have agreed to stay with us to teach and help us. We have a long road ahead of us, to repair the ravages of the Dark Lord’s rule and set things to right again, but we will succeed, and life will be good again.” There were murmurs of agreement from the crowd, and then spontaneous applause as Kirnan and Naira and the others mounted the horses brought from the ships and set off through the town towards the Hall of the Lord of the East.

In their absence the Hall had been restored as far as possible, and the furnishings, though not luxurious, were suitable for a Lord of Li’is. Kirnan and his family entered, and looked around, accompanied by Brann, Tamorine, Tamran and Rafel. Their two young children, used to the humble home they had occupied in hiding, were overcome with excitement at their new home, and ran round exclaiming at it all, till Naira had to gently chide them and calm them. Kirnan gave a sigh of satisfaction, and said, “We are home at last, Naira, my heart.” Rafel had the distant gaze that told them he was using his Perception, and after a few minutes he smiled, and said, “Come into your Great Hall, Lord Kirnan. You have guests.” Kirnan looked puzzled, but he and the others followed the Lightstone-Bearer into the Great Hall, with its high vaulted ceiling. There was no one there, and Kirnan glanced in enquiry at Rafel, who smiled again, and said, “Wait.” A moment longer, and there was a movement in the air, and then the shimmering that announced the arrival of a Dancer. The others had seen this before, but Kirnan gazed in wonder as two of the light-beings blinked into being before him. Rafel said, “You wished to meet the Dancers, Lord Kirnan, and they have agreed.” Kirnan gasped, “I am honoured! They are so beautiful!” Naira too gazed in awe, taking in the glowing blue-green flames, but their two young children, far from being awed, were delighted at the sight of the Dancers and reached out to touch their sparkling substance. Naira cried out, but the Dancers’ thought came into all their minds. “Do not fear, Lady Naira, we will not harm the little ones.” Kirnan, emboldened by this, asked, “Dancers, the Lightstone-Bearer says you are the defenders of our world, and set the rhythm of life here. That is so?” The light-beings replied, “Light sets the rhythms of all life, but we sing the Songs of all life, as Light commands. We defend all worlds, but this above all, since Ma’al was corrupted and lost to us. We are not always visible, but some of our number are always here, at the Meeting Place.” “What is the Meeting Place?” Kirnan asked. “It is where we brought the Lightfriends and Ketai into Li’is from Ma’al, in the far North of the Eastern continent, among the mountains which no man may pass, for that is forbidden of Light. It is where we keep watch over Li’is, and where men may sometimes meet us, if we are satisfied their intent is good.” Kirnan was silent for a moment, taking this in, then asked, “Will you be here in the East also?” “When we are needed”, the Dancers replied, in their thought-language. “We move at will outside of your time. Even if we are in the far distance, among the stars, if we are needed here we will be here instantly. ” “What amazing beings!” Naira exclaimed. The Dancers replied, “Lady Naira, we are creations of Light, just as you are, and serve Light as you have vowed to do. We are no better or worse than you, simply different.” Kirnan said, “Still, we are honoured to meet you, Dancers. And we thank you for your protection.” “We were glad to come” the Dancers replied, “but now we must leave you. We have tasks to perform for Light. But you may be assured of our presence in Li’is, though we may not be visible to you.” “Farewell, then, and thank you”, Kirnan replied, but the Dancers were already shimmering away into nothingness.

When the Dancers had left them, Kirnan said, “Lightstone-Bearer, did you summon the Dancers?” “I asked if they would come”, Rafel replied. “I cannot summon the Dancers unless there is need of their aid. They were pleased to reveal themselves to you.” “It is an awesome thought, that we share this world of Li’is with such beings”, Kirnan said. “Remember what they told you”, Rafel warned, “and do not give them the reverence that belongs only to Light.” “I would not”, Kirnan assured him, “for it was Light that placed the Dancers here for our protection.” Rafel smiled, and answered, “Then it is good.” Kirnan said, “We must take steps to set up the leaders that the Town needs, under my authority, and ensure that the people can begin to rebuild. Many of the houses have fallen into disrepair, except those that the favoured followers of the Dark Lord took for themselves, and so much has been lost or stolen.” “We found supplies at the Harbour, hoarded for their use”, Brann told him, “and have distributed food and clothing to the people from those.” Naira said, ” As much as their physical needs, the people will need care to recover from the effects of their slavery, whether physical wounds or mental torment.” “The Lightfriends will help with that”, Rafel told her, “for we are well-trained in helping the sick at heart.” ” Once our Harbour and its town are fully re-established, we can trade with you again”, Brann said, “though , like you, it will take time for us to rebuild and gather fresh stores, for the Dark Lord’s followers looted most of the best. If we can give you aid, we will, but it will depend on our own resources.” “I know you will give us what help you can”, Kirnan answered, “for you have already done us great service at risk to yourselves. Before you return to the West, I would like us to swear Sword-Brotherhood, Brann, not only for ourselves, but as a sign of brotherhood between East and West.” “Gladly!” Brann exclaimed. He drew out the True Sword, and said, “This is the True Sword, Lord Kirnan, brought out of Ma’al where it was forged secretly at the command of Light, and given to me to bear in battle against the Dark Lord. We could not swear on a better blade.” Rafel watched approvingly as the vow was made, and then Brann showed Kirnan the Swordsmen’s handclasp they had learned in the Mountains. Kirnan said, “My heart will be sad when you leave, Sword-Brother, you and your friends and the Lightstone-Bearer, but we shall be joined now by our vow and by the Way of Light.” “All Children of Light are brothers and sisters”, Rafel said, “no matter how distant from each other.”

Kirnan’s words had reminded Brann of the family and friends waiting in the West, not knowing if their voyage to the East had met with success. Even with Rafel’s enhanced Perception and the Thought-without-Words, the distance was too far to reach, and he knew that they must soon return and relieve the minds of those left behind. So he began to set things in train for their return. They spent a few more days, while the preparations were being made, with Kirnan and the wise men of the town that he had gathered, along with his faithful followers who had been in exile with him. They made plans for the restoration of the East, now that its workers and farmers were free of forced labour for the Dark Lord’s followers and could work and trade as they wished. The renovation of the town and its harbour were also discussed, and Brann told them of their work in the West, and the construction of a City there. Kirnan thought that in time he could build an Eastern City also, and gathered ideas from Brann and the others. There were also matters of trade between the two continents to be arranged, and signals by which each other’s vessels could be recognised as genuine transporters of goods or passengers, and not under the control of Children of Night, as they had begun to call the Dark Lords’ followers. Once the discussions were finished, and Brann and Tamorine’s flotilla had been prepared for the voyage, they were ready to depart. There was no danger of the Two-Moon Tides, since the next run of them was not due for some time, so they waited until the weather was favourable, and prepared to set sail. Kirnan and Naira came to the harbour to bid them farewell and wish them a safe voyage. Kirnan said, “I hope we shall meet again, Sword-Brother.” “So do I”, Brann said, as they shared the Swordsmen’s handclasp, “but if not, we can send messages on the ships.” The horses and troops had been loaded, and Rafel bade farewell to the Lightfriends who had volunteered to stay in the East, promising them that their families would join them as soon as possible. At last Brann, Tamorine and Tamran, Rafel, Ket-Jal, and the other leaders embarked, and they were ready to sail.

Brann stood on the deck with Tamorine and the others, watching the Eastern harbour slowly fade into the distance. “I wonder if we shall ever sail there again?” Tamorine said. “If it is in the Will of Light”, Rafel replied. Mihel, who was with them, said, “Kirnan will be a good Lord of the East, and it will go well with his people under his rule, and his son’s.” They knew that this was not a hope, but a prophecy, coming from the Shining One, and were glad. Brann was thinking that there was much still to do in the West , too, but he was also determined that, now that all the battles were over, he and Tamorine should wed as soon as possible. They could still work together for the restoration of normal life and the spread of the Way of Light, but she would be his Lady, and that meant everything to him. He broached the subject with her and Tamran, when they were together one evening on deck, watching the sun set in the direction of home. Tamorine said, “I am ready to wed whenever you wish, my heart, unless Tamran has any reason to delay our wedding.” “Not I!”, Tamran laughed, “What reason could I have to part your two hearts any longer? It has been necessary for you to wait until the East was freed, but now that all is done, why should you not be wed?” Brann smiled, and said, “Then we will wed as soon as arrangements can be made, Tamorine, my love. When we reach the Harbour, we can make the preparations.” ” And we will ask Rafel to wed us under the Law of Light”, Tamorine replied. “Of course!”, he assured her. “Our mother will bring you a suitable gown and flowers from the Mountains”, Tamran told his sister, “and dress you as a Lord’s bride should be dressed.” Tamorine laughed, “I would not care if I wed in this battle harness, and nor would Brann, as long as we will be Lord and Lady!” “But our mother will care!” Tamran said, “And you would not disappoint her, Tamorine.” “No”, she said, “you know I spoke in jest, dear brother.” “I know”, he replied, and they were quiet, gazing thoughtfully at the sunset colours on the horizon, though Brann felt that Tamran had something more in mind than he had said.

At last they were near enough to home for Rafel’s augmented Perception to reach, and he stood on deck reaching out in the Thought-without-Words to his Brothers-in-Light at the Harbour. Brann and Tamran had each given him messages to pass on, and there was, above all, the news to send that the East was free and Kirnan restored as its Lord. Rafel spent a long time in the Thought-without-Words, and needed to rest for a while afterwards, for even with the aid of the Lightstone it had been tiring for him to extend his Perception over such a distance and for so long. Later, when he joined the leaders, he said, “My Brothers-in-Light have passed on our news, and there is gladness and relief that all is well now in Li’is. They report that the building of the City and at the Fortress is being carried on successfully, and that the wounded we left at the Harbour have all recovered well, with no Wound Fever among them. Lord Baran will have the Harbour ready for our return.” “Then it is well with Javan?” Brann asked, “He was still very weak when we left him at the Harbour.” “Your cousin is well again”, Rafel replied, to Brann’s relief. “I must tell Jamin and Tavan”, he said, “For his brother and other cousin have been as concerned as I.” As he left to find the two Swordsmen, he noticed Tamran and Rafel in quiet discussion, and wondered again what it was that occupied Tamran’s mind. Then he reasoned that Tamran had spent several years with the Lightstone-Bearer and Lightfriends, and it might be that they were talking over something from the past.

As he expected, Jamin and Tavan were greatly relieved to hear that Javan had regained his health and strength. “Thanks in no small part to the Healers among the Lightfriends, who tended him and the others”, Jamin said. “Praise Light for them!” “Forin said that they had knowledge he did not have, but he could also tell them things new to them”, Tavan commented. “Then they will learn from our Healers, and our Healers from them, and both will increase their knowledge”, Brann said. “And that will be good for all of Li’is.” “The Lightstone-Bearer and the Lightfriends have brought us many blessings”, Jamin said, ” but above all the knowledge of the Way of Light” “It is that which will set Li’is on a new path, and a new start”, Brann agreed. He told them the other news Rafel had passed on, of the building at the City and the Mountain Fortress, and Tavan said, “It will be a long time before all the work is finished.” “It will”, Brann said, “but it will be worth the doing. We will be stronger, and better prepared should the Dark Lords of Ma’al make any further attempt to gain control of Li’is. Kirnan will build up the Eastern Continent too, and all Li’is will be ready.” “We have the Lightfriends now, too”, Jamin said, “and their Perception will warn us of any danger.” “Light has blessed us”, Brann said, ” and our duty now is to stay true to Light and defend our world against Darkness.”

The winds were with them, and soon they could sight land in the distance. “We will soon be home!”, Brann said as the group of leaders stood on deck watching as they approached the land. “There is a sign we are nearing the shore”, Rafel said, pointing down at the water, and they looked down and saw that a group of sea-cats had joined them once again, playing in the waves that the ship thrust aside from its bow. They watched the graceful movements of the animals for some time, enjoying the feeling that they were nearing the Harbour and their friends and families. Soon they could see the details of the coast, and then they were nearing the Harbour. Brann’s heart lifted at the thought of returning to a land free of the Dark Lord, free to grow and rebuild in Light. Tamorine was beside him ,and he reached for her hand, and held it as they sailed into the Harbour. Her hand returned the pressure of his, and they needed no words to express their joy at the return. They could see a crowd on the Harbour quay, for Rafel had sent out the Thought-without-Words again to announce their arrival, and their families and friends had gathered to greet them. Brann saw his father, with Javan, looking as fit as ever, and others of his kin. Lord Tamor was there, with Tamran and Tamorine’s mother Ranella, and another woman. There seemed to be more of Tamor’s people than Brann had seen before, but then they had probably returned to him from hiding since the Dark Lord had been overthrown. When he asked Tamorine who the second woman was and she replied that it was her aunt, he surmised that his assumption had been correct.

It seemed a long time before the ships were all moored and they were able to disembark, for they were impatient to see their loved ones now that they were safely home. At last they were able to leave the ships and greet those waiting for them. Tamran smilingly embraced his grandfather, mother and aunt, followed by Tamorine, while Brann greeted his father and received his congratulations, then shared the Swordsmen’s handclasp with Javan. “Ah, it is good to see you in such good health, cousin!” he exclaimed, before surrendering him to the greetings of his brother and other cousin. He turned to greet Tamorine’s family, and said, “You have a goodly number with you, Lord Tamor. Your people have returned from exile?” Tamor smiled broadly, and said, “They have. We have brought friends and family to welcome you home – and to attend your wedding.” Tamorine, who had come to Brann’s side, gave a startled exclamation, and Brann, also shocked, exclaimed himself “Our wedding? But that will take time to prepare, Lord Tamor!” He heard his father’s voice behind him, then. “All is prepared, Brann”, Baran said, and laughed. “The Lightstone-Bearer told us you had succeeded in the East and were on the way home, and Lord Tamran sent word that you and Tamorine wished to wed as soon as possible, and asked that we – Lord Tamor and I – would arrange matters. All is ready, and you will wed tomorrow.” “Tomorrow!”, Brann gasped, “But …Tamorine, did you know?” “No!” she answered, “Tamran has done this without my knowledge. But I am very happy, if you are.” “Of course!” he told her, slipping an arm around her waist. “I was just surprised, as you were. But I will gladly wed you tomorrow, my heart.” He looked at Tamran, and said, “I thought you were discussing something secretly with Rafel, Tamran, but I did not guess it was this!” Tamran smiled, “I wished my beloved sister and my Sword-Brother to have their hearts’ desire.” Lady Ranella said, “Your aunt and I have found you a suitable gown, Tamorine, and flowers have been gathered for your wedding garland. You will be a beautiful bride!” Rafel said, “I agreed with Tamran, Brann and Tamorine, that your happiness should not be delayed. I will be happy to marry you under the law of Light.” Brann’s mind was still grasping the news, but he felt a wave of happiness. Tomorrow they would be married, and Tamorine would be his Lady. A joy unexpected, for he had thought they would have to wait longer. She was smiling at him, though her eyes, momentarily, were bright with tears of happiness. Baran said, briskly, “It is wonderful that we will share your joy tomorrow, but for now we must let everyone rest. Brann, Tamorine’s family will stay with us at the House of the Lord of the Harbour, the Lightstone-Bearer too. You can tell us all that has happened in the East, for Rafel gave us only the outlines through the Thought-without-Words. ” He turned to his guests, and said, “Come, friends, let us go and let these wanderers rest and eat, and tell us their adventures.”

For Brann the rest of the day passed in a blur. He went to bathe and rest as his father had instructed, and found that as well as his everyday clothes, a set of wedding clothes in the old traditional green and gold colours of the Lord of the Harbour had been left ready for the next day, along with his Lord’s circlet and chain with family badges. He guessed that, as with Kirnan’s family in the East, these things had been hidden away safely from the Dark Lord’s pillaging. Later he met his father and their guests for a meal and discussion, not only of what had happened in the East, but what was to be done now to build up and defend Li’is. Tamorine was there, in the dark green gown he had seen her in at the Fortress, with her mother and aunt, but he surmised that that was not the gown she would wear for their wedding. Baran had said that the ceremony would take place in the Great Hall of his house, and there would be celebrations in its grounds afterwards. Brann was happy all these decisions had been made for them, for he was still stunned, though joyful, at the thought that all had happened so quickly. At length the evening ended with Rafel saying the Evening Prayers for them, and an early night for all, since tomorrow would be such a busy day. Brann had thought that he would be sleepless with anticipation, but he was more tired than he had imagined, and fell quickly and soundly asleep.

When Brann woke, he was still half-asleep, and unsure, for a moment, where he was. He had been used to the gentle roll of the ship and the cabin he had shared with Tamran, and it took him a moment to remember that he was in his father’s house, his home now, and Tamorine’s from today, he thought , as full recollection came, and he remembered that today was their wedding day. He lay still and offered a prayer of praise and thanks to Light, a prayer too that he would be able to make Tamorine as happy as he wished to, as she deserved after all that had befallen her. Nothing was as normal on this special day, and so the morning meal was brought to him, before he went to bathe and returned to dress for the ceremony. After so long in everyday clothes and battle harness, it felt strange to wear the fine garments and brocaded over-robe, the gold circlet and chain with its enamelled badges. He wondered what Ranella had brought for Tamorine to wear. Fine gown or not, she would still be, to him, his valiant warrior maiden. He heard a tap at the door and opened it, thinking it would be another servant, but it was Tamran, dressed as finely as he, and smiling broadly. Brann let him in, and he came and sat down on the edge of Brann’s bed, swinging his legs, and said, “Well, are you ready, Sword-Brother? Not long now, and you will be my brother in truth.” “And glad to be so”, Brann replied, “for you and I and Tamorine have fought alongside each other, and I value you both.” “But will wed only one!” Tamran joked. “I am sent to fetch you, Brann, for all is in place now, and Rafel will tell you how the ceremony will proceed. He has already spoken to Tamorine.” “Is it well with her?” Brann asked. “It is, despite the fussing of my mother and aunt as they array her for the wedding”, Tamran laughed.

They left Brann’s room and went out to the Great Hall, where they found Rafel waiting. The Hall was busy with servants arranging seating , but the wedding dais had already been set up, draped with the colours of the two families being united here, the green and gold of the Harbour and the deep rust-red of the Mountain Fortress. Rafel welcomed Brann with a smile and a blessing, then led him through the wedding ceremony and the responses to make. As this was completed, Brann’s father Baran came into the Hall, with Lord Tamor. They came across to Brann and Rafel, and Baran said, “Is all ready, Lightstone-Bearer?” “It is”, Rafel affirmed. “Then I may take Brann away for a while?” “Yes”, Rafel said. Brann followed his father, wondering what his father wanted. Maybe to speak to him about his responsibilities as a husband? But Baran said, “I have something to show you, Brann, my son.” He led Brann into a part of the house where Brann had not been. It had been in the hands of workmen , and Brann had assumed repairs were being made. Now, though, Baran said, “This is the suite of rooms we have had prepared for you and Tamorine”. Brann suddenly realised that he had not even thought that far; not expecting to be wed so soon he had expected time to find a place to live with Tamorine after their wedding. Baran, though, had forestalled him, and showed him, with some measure of pride, the arrangements he had made. There was an airy, spacious room to use for quiet times together, a second for daily tasks, a comfortable bedchamber, and bathing place, and another room, unfinished as to furnishings, but clean and pleasant. Baran said, “You will eat with us in the Great Hall, of course, and the kitchens will prepare our food, but you will need space to be together as a married couple.” “And the empty room?” Brann said, with a smile, already guessing the answer. Baran said, a little gruffly, “For when- I hope for when- you have children, Brann.” “Thank you, Father”, Brann said. “I am grateful for your care for us, and so will Tamorine be.”

By the time they returned to the Great Hall the guests had begun to arrive, and the Hall soon filled up. Of course the Swordsmen from both Forest and Mountain, who had fought with Brann, Tamorine and Rafel against the Dark Lord, were welcome guests, as were the Ketai and the Lightfriends. Brann saw that Mihel was among the Swordsmen, and felt honoured. What other wedding in all the years of Li’is, he wondered, had had, or would have, a Shining One , however well disguised, as a guest? His family, and Tamorine’s ,were seated at the front, near the dais. Tamorine’s aunt was there, with Lord Tamor and Tamran, but her mother, Ranella, was absent, since she was with Tamorine. Rafel summoned Brann, who took his place on the dais, and stood there, finding himself unexpectedly nervous. It seemed an age, though it was not really long at all, before the door opened, and Tamorine came in, accompanied by Ranella. She was dressed in a gown of rich crimson, with bands of gold embroidery at the hem, sleeves, and neckline. A single large gem of the same colour was on a fine gold chain around her neck, and in keeping with the colours of her gown, her loose, honey-blonde hair was crowned with a garland of woodland flowers, golden-yellow and deep red, with just a few sprays of the strongly scented white blossom of the blackbark tree to perfume it. Brann gazed at her as she stepped up onto the dais. Her courage and character had always been more important to him than her physical appearance, though he had always considered her attractive. Now, though, he realised how beautiful she could be. The colour of the gown made her eyes greener than ever, and threw a rosy glow on her face, which seemed lit with inner happiness.

Tamorine smiled at him, and he took her hand and turned back to face Rafel, who led them through the wedding ceremony as their family and friends watched. It was the first time most had seen a wedding under the Law of Light, and all found it moving. When all the vows had been made, and Rafel pronounced them wed, there was spontaneous applause, which died as Rafel signed for silence, and pronounced a blessing. Then he did something they had not expected, drawing out the Lightstone and laying it to each of their brows in turn, Brann first, then Tamorine. The light poured out of the Stone at the touch, enveloping each of them in a fountain of light, before withdrawing into the Stone again, and the watching guests were awed and silent. Rafel said ” Brann, Tamorine, receive Light’s blessing, and live always in Light.” “Thank you, Lightstone-Bearer”, Brann said, feeling it only right to use Rafel’s full title, and Tamorine echoed, “Oh yes, thank you!” Brann turned to his new Lady, and leaned to kiss her, drawing more applause from their guests, before he led her down from the dais and out into the grounds of the house, where there would be feasting and dancing and more congratulations. “This is a wonderful day!” Tamorine said. “I remember when I knew I loved you, Brann, but thought that we could never wed – until Tamran revealed himself, and told me I was free of the Law of the Mountains, and we could be betrothed.” “I owe your brother a great deal”, Brann said, clasping her hand tightly. “He set you free to marry me, and has fought bravely with us against the Darkness. I hope he will find happiness himself in time.” “There is time for everything now”, she answered. “No more fear of the Dark Lord, and Li’is will have the blessing of Light. ” “That is so, my heart”, he answered. “This is a new beginning, and we will rebuild and grow stronger, and grow in Light. But for now”, and he smiled at her, “we will share our happiness with our friends and family, and rejoice on our wedding day.”


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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