Orien: Quiet Debate

Lenna laid the injured in beds of heavy wools
along the wide porches that clung to Wellan’s house.
Her father and Avren she she laid out side by side
where they could watch the fields and the thaw of winter.
They recovered their strength with good conversation,
hearty meals and long rest, as Lenna ministered
most ably to their needs. The injured men with them
delighted in their talk, as Wellan told stories
of the heroes of old; Avren told his own tales,
and sang the Moon-sagas, the scriptures of his home.
They all knew her cycles, but Avren knew the chants,
and tales of her wonders, her deeds in other worlds.
The men made up verses to recall those who died
fighting the gaverae, defending Wellan’s house,
and Wellan gave rich gifts to the men who helped him.

One day they all awoke, and saw the melting snow
had uncovered the field, and new green grass shoots
were beginning to rise. The men rose from their beds,
and now all fully healed, went out to the planting,
and the sowing of seed. They worked for many days,
digging the long furrows, and sending out the sheep
with shepherds to pasture, and the cows to meadow.
At dusk they lay weary, sat silent on the porch,
and watched the firelight with old beer in their cups.
The work was hard that year; Wellan had ten less men
to drive the ox-drawn plough or plant seed in the ground;
and he had fewer bulls, and fewer sheep as well.
The raid of the monsters had devastated him,
and much his people feared the threat of starvation:
Therefore they labored hard to get the planting done.

One day when the moon rose without her companions,
sickle-shaped and waxing, growing in her power,
and the planting was done, Wellan summoned his house,
and they sat on the porch, drinking hot askavis
and observing the moon. When the moon rose higher,
Wellan called for silence, and spoke his mind to them.
“Friends and kinsmen of mine, Avren has been our guest
for long days since autumn, and has proved much his worth.
The day of balance comes, and the spring is waxing;
The streams flood with snowmelt, and the fields are muddy.
The shore-men are busy, for they have much more land,
and the snow melts away much faster by the sea.
But we have been weakened by the death of ten men,
and though our halls are strong, and could keep out any,
some fields will lie barren without some extra help.

Here, then, is my thinking: that I will give Lenna,
my Indigo daughter, in marriage to Avren,
and join me to his house. I will make him my lord,
and see he gets good land, the best I have to give,
He will take Ovan’s house and all of Ovan’s goods,
and we will get his men from the sea-side dwellers,
and bring them all up here, such ones as have survived.
Nine men were in his ship, followed him here from home.
He killed three gaverae, and helped bring down a fourth.
His home is far away, somewhere over the sea;
I doubt he can get home, not unless Moon takes him.
He told us his story, you heard him spin it out.
He will have no return. Alba is now his home.
Let us make him welcome, and give him rich bounty,
and good reason to stay. Tell me all your thinking.”

Gaskil who shaped iron spoke his mind to Wellan,
and the whole company who sat viewing the moon.
“Avren is a good man, no one can refute that.
But there is prophecy: The Eye called him pirate.
Arlean the White Shawl urged us to kill them all.
Kembirel heeds her words. He will look for reasons,
pretexts to destroy him, this Avren the Heron.
And he will harm us too, who dared to support him.
Can we fight gaverae, and also the shore-men,
keep the wolves from our sheep and raiders from our cows,
work planting and harvest, and still keep our own ways?
Avren will bring great change, and transform all our lives,
perhaps not for the best. Is it wise to press this,
and proper to act thus, without having allies?
Avren needs a sponsor among the shore-dwellers.”

Kaylen, who lived below the worst of the snowfall
weighed in with his own thought. “You have been cooped up here,
among your sheep and goats, for far too long, my friends.
Alone among us all, I have walked by the sea
twice since the spring began. Avren’s men work like slaves;
they labor in the fields and are chained up at night,
like valuable stallions. They are nigh-leaderless,
and likely soon to die, unless you act quickly.
You have gaverae skulls, and new shields and armor
made from their sturdy hides to show off at kawntradd;
We are warriors now, therefore men of standing.
Kembirel will back down; he will give Avren’s men
over to your keeping, and approve your land grants.
Four gaverae are dead! You have grown used to them,
those skeletons on pikes. Others will gape in awe.”

Rugal the stonecutter offered his opinion:
“Let us go to kawntradd, bearing gaverae skulls
before us like totems, to frighten the shore-men
and make them bow to us. Only Pramil deals fair
of all those men below. They cheat us in trading,
and take our cheese and beer for fractions of their worth.
They keep us from the sea, and hoard all their produce,
and strip us of honor, a little by little.
Let us make them see us as neighbors and partners,
not slaves and not servants, not vassals and not subjects.”
Penmer the carpenter who built ships in his youth:
“I longed to go to sea before my hair was gray,
but those days are long gone. But my two sons would go,
if a chance should appear. Kembirel closed that door.
We should make him open the sea to our children.”

So the debate raged on, with more men in favor
of Wellan’s proposal than stood against his thought.
So matters were agreed: they would go to kawntradd
before the summer came, bearing the monsters’ skulls.
They would get Avren’s men, and win back their old rights,
and reclaim their honor. Kembirel would not win,
not this time nor ever. They would enlist Pramil
and gain his sponorship; so they all consented.
Wellan gave his men gifts when sunrise lit the east,
and promised to meet them at the hill of kawntradd
when the time had arrived. Then he sent messengers
to Pramil in crimson, the master of the ships,
to sound out his feelings on the mountain-men’s plans.
They took some gifts with them, and walked down the mountain.
But Avren knew nothing; they did not consult him.

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