The Lost Direction
Mergolech, who, along with Eradus, had voted against Murta’s proposed invasion of Quatria, immediately thereafter tried to amend the resolution to become an armed trade mission. The Lawspeaker reminded him that motions could only be amended prior to adoption, unless the councilors agreed to allow a vote. They did agree to allow a vote, with the initial support of Greppo, who had been on the prevailing side of the vote. But when the actual vote occurred, the measure was once again struck down in a 3–2 vote against modification, and so the fate of Quatria was sealed.
Observing Benda weeping openly, Mergolech stood up and reaffirmed his vow to protect Benda, Lualla and Sol as their rightful king. The matter did not require a motion or resolution, but the Lawspeaker nodded solemnly and said, “The Lawspeaker notes it. Let no lawful man oppose the right of kings.”
After a period of silence, Martis Ovnis spoke thus, “The Fourth and Fifth Kings have not had their full say, as have the others. May the Lawspeaker grant this under right of kings.”
“The Lawspeaker grants it,” he said.
“Whether by arms or by exchange, let us return then to this ancient land, and do justice by all under whatever conditions with which we are met. There remains, however, the matter of the spoils… It is proposed we divide the spoils and any lands lawfully taken under the rules of war equally amongst the Five Kingdoms.”
Martis Ovnis, who was very crafty, said this primarily because he knew that his small northern Kingdom of Edebia could not match the soldiery available to Kremel, or the ships of Cannaxus. And while his people might contribute less in the overall effort, he hoped he might still protect their gain to come.
To his surprise, Eradus said, “I second.” For he and his dear friend Benda, there was opening in their imaginations a devastation of an entire land and its people. He thought his even tinier kingdom claiming an equal stake in that future might help secure a one-fifth measure of justice. He deemed it better than potentially none at all.
The Lawspeaker held the matter of equity of spoils to a vote, and despite the inequalities in their relative forces, it passed unanimously for political reasons. Greppo, in particular, felt that this was the best manner to alleviate any potential division or disagreement amongst the Five Kingdoms as they moved forward together on this one path.
“If it please the Lawspeaker, the Fifth King demands now his allotted time,” proclaimed Eradus.
The Lawspeaker indicated he should proceed, and Eradus did so: “Upon finding upon the shores of Devera a bedraggled half-alive man alongside a strange foreign vessel, I dubbed this man without a name First Minstrel of the Realm of Devera. Since then we have faced many trials together, and his memory of his past and his identity have returned to him. While I recognize the right of his king to rule him, I also affirm his obligation as an officer of my court, to render me service, alongside the sable golek, King Machef, who I have also taken as valet.”
“The Lawspeaker recognizes it. Let no lawful man put asunder the right of kings,” said Outhne, the Lawspeaker.
“I cede the remainder of my time to Benda, if it be allowed.”
“The Lawspeaker allows it.”
Benda, eyes still wet with tears, said, “Ye gallant kings, you know not what you do. Never a more peaceful people have graced the Wide Lands than the people of Quatria, who spend their days dedicated to song, and against whom an irrational fear has been constructed out of illusions by a power-mad conjurer…”
“Hold thy tongue, demon!” cried out Murta, rising up in anger.
“The Lawspeaker absorbs any injury to honor, and prohibits further direct or indirect insult or slander.”
He added, as Outhne, the man, informally: “Sit down Murta. You have had your turn to speak, and your motion has won the day. Push not your luck.”
Red-faced, Murta sat down.
“Forgive me,” continued Benda, “for I love those people like my own. If I am to be a citizen of the place of my choosing, let it be there, though I shirk no obligation to others in so saying. It is a question of loyalty to where the heart truly dwells. When my men and I were lost in a storm-at-sea, those people took us in, and joined us intimately with their lives, loves, songs, and festivals. They know not hate, nor even can comprehend violence. Their only swords are dull pageant accessories. Their only war cries are the songs of their hearts which they lift day and night in joyful exultation.”
“I shall take you there if I must — though I truly do not know the way — but in exchange then I beseech you all in your power and majesty to do them no harm. Do them no violence. Welcome you they will with open arms, and the joy of long lost brothers, cousins, friends, and mothers. Let neither fear nor greed guide this mission, or it will bring about too your own ruin. I yield my time.”
“Though I am not bound by the rules of men,” spoke a voice then in the hearts of the assembled participants, “I request too my allotted time under the right of kings.” The councilors and Lawspeaker looked about, and realized that the mindspeaker was Machef.
“The Lawspeaker grants it,” he said aloud.
Machef spoke then, in their hearts thus, “It is true that Benda does not know the way, for I have seen into his heart, just as I have seen into each of yours. Let then the Wayteller speak, and let us embark at once upon this foolhardy quest. Though it will bring you not what you think, it will bring upon each what is owed after the purity of his heart. I yield my time.”
Greppo, stirred, spoke up, “What the mindspeaker says is true. The Way has not been forgotten by the long memory of the Citadel. It’s mystery is contained still in the Scroll of Omounna, whose vessel landed upon these shores so long ago, and which the Iabolex came down out of the mountains and cracked like an egg. The child born to her among our people was called Embatet, and he grew at a pace unmatched among our people. Each week for him was like a year, and he ate enough for ten men, and within a few months, he was a full grown man himself. He took then Scroll from his mother, and deciphering it, ruled under the signs of its wisdom, building first the original fortress, then the Citadel, and later City of Kremel.”
“A legend recorded in that scroll describes in occult terms the way back to the land of his mother, Kwetuoria, or as we know it today, Quatria. When the Four Ships people came, they came primarily seeking after Omounna, having realized in their hearts the wrong they had done by putting her out to sea. They came in our time many centuries later, though in their according to the arrow of time in that land, not very much time had passed all. Unknown to them, she and her son were long since dead, and many generations had passed. None among our people had ever attempted the return trip outlined by the scroll prior. And once the Four Ships people had come, there was no reason to try to get back to Quatria, for we entered a Golden Age here in Kremel under their influence.”
“After the tumult of their departure, we thought not to go to that land either. We sought only rather the settling of affairs to rights amongst the Five Kingdoms. Besides, according to the legend contained within the scroll, the Gate of Song would neither appear nor open for us without its key…”
“In which direction shall we sail then?” asked Mergolech. Though his people were not illustrious seafarers, they were hardy fishermen, and knew the waters all about Kremel, parts of Ner and far Ablem. “We know these waters, but know not this Gate of Song you speak of.”
“Simply put,” said Greppo, “we sail in the Lost Direction.”
“We Drynareans know only four directions,” said Eradus, “Though some would divide those each into two, for a total of eight. We know of no Lost Direction.”
“Our tales speak of it,” said Mergolech. “The name we use is Buorthus. It is said to lead to the sea-bridge, which connects the waters below to the waters above — the realm of the Sky Lords. Is Quatria then in the heavens above?”
“Nay,” said Benda. “It is a most real and earthly place. But I traversed there and back again using neither bridge nor gate, but only storm-at-sea.”
“The place is called Tetharys,” said Greppo, “Where the Gate of Song stands on open ocean. In the scrolls it is described as two enormous white pillars, and it is guarded by jealous storm gods, though it is said they will let the Righteous Keyholder pass and open the way for others.”
So it was decided then that after five days, they would depart in three of the largest ships in the small fleet of the Citadel, and sail into the Lost Direction, towards the Buorth, and whatever lay beyond. To counter-act the possible magical effects of the storms-at-sea which protected Tetharys and the Gate of Song, their ships would sail in a single column, one after the other, with chains linking one to the next. Wherever the ship containing Benda, the Keyholder, would be taken off to, they trusted in these stout chains to pull them along safely through as well.
Originally published at http://www.timboucher.ca on October 10, 2019.