Thursday, May 30, 2013

Castles 53

53. At Castle Inter Lucus

            Isen: “Thank you.  The Lord Martin thanks you all for coming.  We hope you enjoyed the party.  Of course I did!  I thought you danced beautifully, but I wasn’t one of the judges.  Yes, you may keep them; Lord Martin wants everyone to have a token of the party.”
            Ora: “In the castle, naturally.  Castle lords have to sleep like everyone else!  Lord Martin will come out and greet folk later this morning, if they can stay.  No.  He won’t be offended; he knows very well that people have a long walk today, and with young children!  Fair well!”
            Tired as they were, Isen and Ora wandered among the tents and campfires of the party guests exuding cheerfulness.  The boy, Alf Saeric, accompanied Ora, carrying a cloth bag with bandaged hands.  The bag contained polished disks of walnut wood, about the size of a thumbnail but perfectly round.  Alf extended the bag to young and old alike.  Since Alf kept silent, Ora spoke for him: “Yes.  Please take one.  Lord Martin made them.  Castle magic, of course!”
            Greeters and guests alike lived in a haze of euphoria from the night before.              The food!  The beer and wine!  Neighbors and friends not seen since last fall!  Music and dancing!  The singing!  The hilarious stories told by Baldric Forrest (who would have guessed he could be so funny?), and the even sillier stories of Viradecthis Ablendan!  And that which no one could have expected: the lights!
            Ora and Caelin had some small notion of what Inter Lucus might do, unlike the others.            No, she thought, that’s like saying a cup of water is like East Lake.  Some things are beyond imagining.  A person has to see them.
            A thousand people (Caelin said more) came to Lord Martin’s party.  The crowd included Eadmar, the priest from Down’s End, who sat with his back against a tree just outside Inter Lucus property.  Lord Martin learned later, from Caadde Bycwine, that Rothulf Saeric was present too, keeping himself mostly out of sight in the woods east of the castle.  (Caadde brought three young goats to the party, wearing sturdy collars, and he tied their leads to trees.  As Caadde hoped, he sold the goats before he left in the morning.  But with so many folk nearby, Caadde had to watch the animals diligently, so he noticed Rothulf hiding.)
            People came from village Inter Lucus, from Senerham, from the forests north of the castle, and from outlying farms.  They brought tents or blankets, children, dogs, food and drink, and considerable wariness and skepticism.  Lord Martin’s kindness and generosity eased their wariness; and when the singing and dancing started they gave themselves over to enjoyment.  As to skepticism, when darkness fell Lord Martin entered Inter Lucus and proved to everyone’s satisfaction that he was indeed lord of the castle.  All the folk between the lakes who did not come would spend the rest of the summer asking their neighbors exactly what they witnessed, because even from their farms and homes they saw something.
            It started with a moonrise in the castle wall.  Not a real moon, of course, but first moonrise as it would look to an eagle: clear and swift.  Then came a sunrise; like the real sun, too bright to look at directly—mothers shielded their children’s eyes.  In an instant, the image of the sun winked out; more than one man cried out in surprise.  Bands of colored light, resembling a rainbow, appeared in the wall; and then the colors got brighter and the light projected onto the crowd, making some tents red and others green.  The rainbow colors united into a single white light that narrowed and brightened and pointed here and there.  (“Damn unnerving, it was,” said Alfwald Redwine more than once, about having the light point at him.  But since Alfwald was one of only three people who were spotlighted, he regarded it as a badge of honor.)
            The white light made a bright circle on the dense firs and pines west of the castle.  Then colored dots began chasing each other in the white circle: blue, red, yellow, green.  The white background light faded out, and the colored dots now chased each other with the forest as background on three sides of the castle.  The colored lights disappeared, and there was a minute of dark; some folk began to think the show was over.  Then five separate beams of white light sprang up into the night, like pillars of ice that melted into each other high above the tallest trees.  The white pillars shaded slowly into yellow, then blue and green.
            The viewers, seated on blankets or logs, were quiet at first.  But as one wonder followed another, they began to applaud each new marvel.  Collective “oohs” and “ahs” greeted the white pillars.  When the colored dots chased each other, folk pointed them out to their neighbors.  When they thought they could not be further surprised, the castle wall pictured an explosion of red and yellow dots—and a tremendous roar accompanied the light, such that many feared a bomb had been set off.
            The final part of the show introduced music.  It wasn’t a whole song; just four notes (or three notes, with one repeated).  With the first note, a yellow rectangle of light appeared halfway up the left side of the wall.  With the second note, a higher tone than the first, a red rectangle shone a bit to the right and higher in the wall.  The third note repeated the first, with the yellow light reappearing, at the same height as the first note but further to the right.  The fourth note was lower, and a rectangle of blue light shone near the bottom of the wall on the far right.  Yellow, red, yellow, blue: the colors repeated in sequence as the notes sounded, running from left to right, over and over.  The music went faster and slower; sometimes louder, sometimes quieter.  The last repetition was slow, majestic, and very loud.  The last long note swelled louder still, and then cut off suddenly, with the light vanishing at the same moment.  The people of Inter Lucus and Senerham stood and cheered in the dark.
            Sleep came quickly for a few, but very slowly for many.  First and second moonrise found groups of men and women talking in quiet voices around the tents.  Children sat by fathers or mothers or lay on the grass, awed into silence.  No one doubted that Martin Cedarborne was lord of Inter Lucus.  Life between the lakes would certainly change, they agreed; most were hopeful that it would change for the better.
            People rose from their blankets in morning sunlight slanting down over the trees.  For people between the lakes, this was late rising indeed.  They still felt the awe and elation of the previous night, but the work of farm, forest, kitchen, and shop required their attention.  They made quick breakfasts of leftover bread and meats, washing them down with the remaining beer.  Isen, Ora and Alf moved among the people, thanking folk for coming and making sure everyone had a “wooden nickel.”             
            (Lord Martin had discovered how to use castle magic to produce the walnut disks in the west wing of Inter Lucus.  He was immensely pleased with this new capability, and for some reason he laughed heartily when he called them “wooden nickels.”  Ora had no idea what a nickel was, and she didn’t think Caelin or Isen knew either.)
            Lord Martin came out from the castle in mid-morning.  Nine tenths of the crowd had departed, but the lord graciously greeted everyone who stayed behind.  More than one guest assured Lord Martin that he would bring hidgield at harvest time.  They wish they had brought early gifts like Alfwald and Fridiswid Redwine or Everwin and Osulf Idan, thought Ora.  Now that they have seen Martin’s power, they want to curry his favor.

            By late morning, Marty had said farewell to all but one family.  Though he slept several hours, he still felt drained from the efforts of the night.  Experience in the weeks since he arrived on Two Moons had taught him that controlling Inter Lucus took energy, leaving him slightly tired.  But he had never before commanded the castle for more than ten minutes continuously.  The light show had lasted more than an hour, and when the last note ended he was exhausted.  Now, with another summer day heating up, Marty welcomed the thought of a quiet afternoon.
            The remaining guests were Attor Woodman and family.  Attor had brought Eacnung and her children to the castle along with a wagonload of thick pine planks.  Marty greeted the family with Ora at his side.
            “Fair morning, Attor.  And to you, Eacnung.”  Marty had been introduced to the woodman’s wife the afternoon before.  “Am I right to think this lumber is meant for the doors of Inter Lucus?”
            “Aye, Lord Martin.”  Attor inclined his head, as did Eacnung.  Aethulwulf, seeing his parents acknowledge Marty, also bowed.  All three looked steadily at Marty, averting their eyes from Ora.  Attor said, “It’s the best of the forest: straight-grained, cured pine with no knots, the heartwood of great trees.”
            “Very good.  Can your horse pull the wagon up to the castle?”
            Attor eyed the slope.  “We’ll see.  Might have to push.”
            Marty touched Ora’s elbow.  “I think Isen went inside.  Fetch him out here.  We may need a strong body.”
            When Ora was out of earshot, Marty addressed Attor and Eacnung.  “Attor and Eacnung, listen carefully.  You treated Ora shamefully by believing your son’s lie about her.  Perhaps you feel guilt.  If so, you should ask Ora to forgive you; I believe she would.  Perhaps you fear that I will punish you.  I will not.  Ora is my honorable servant.  You are her family.  You ought to be my friends.”
            Attor said, “Aethulwulf finally told me the truth the day you came to Penrict’s smithy.  I am sorry I did not believe Ora.”
            “You know what to do then.”

            Bley was hitched to the lumber wagon.  On the steepest part of the slope, Isen, Caelin, Attor, and Aethulwulf pushed from behind while Ora gently encouraged Bley to pull harder.  Marty offered to help with pushing, but Attor and Isen protested that it was not a fit task for a lord.  Too spent to argue, Marty acquiesced to this judgment, and the lumber wagon mounted the hill without him.  Marty followed the wagon to the castle door with Eacnung and her younger children.
            The wagon came to a stop near the west door to the great hall.  Marty had an idea. “Caelin, can you whip up a lunch for ten?”
            “Aye, my lord.  It will take but half an hour.  The fridge has leftovers.”
            “Make it so.  I want Attor and his family to join us.  Isen and Aethulwulf can unload the wagon in that much time.  Meanwhile, Alf and I will take Eacnung, Rand, and Rheda inside Inter Lucus.  Would you like to see the great hall, Rand?”
            The boy’s eyes went round.  “Aye, my lord.”
            Ora asked, “What shall I do, my lord?”
            Marty looked from Rand to his half-sister, his gefeadernes, as if this were an afterthought rather than the whole point.  “Oh, ah.  Ora.  Why don’t you take Attor outside Inter Lucus, around to the east door?  After all, this lumber is supposed to supply doors east and west.  And you can show him where the path is growing.”
            “Very well, my lord.”
            Ora did not see the look between her father and Marty, nor Attor’s slight nod.

Copyright © 2013 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.


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