Kembirel in his hall, noted the messengers
coming down the valley and returning again
from the house of Pramil, the master of the ships.
“Those are Wellan’s people,” he said to his brother,
“Wellan must be angry, to seek out Pramil’s help.
I have long neglected sating the mountain men,
bottled up on their hill, cut off from the ocean.
It’s time I changed all that, and paid them a visit.
They will lay out their best, and offer their plenty.
I will dispense arm-rings, and gifts of cloth and gold,
swords and many trade-goods. They will welcome me well,
and forgive me my faults, and do me right instead.
I will make a request, a little thing, really,
and take the captain back. Then I’ll kill the strangers,
all of them together, and be secure once more.”
But Arlean his niece came into the hall then,
wrapped in her shawl of white, still beautiful and strong,
despite the muddy stains upon her fringe and hem.
“Hold, Uncle Kembirel,” she said in tones of bronze.
“Dissuade yourself from this; the mountain men love him,
the man from oversea. He has beaten their foes,
and spoken with browncloaks, and entertains marriage
to an indigo maid, a woman of good sense.
No journey up the hill will be well-rewarded,
not at this late hour. The mountain men will come
to kawntradd with demands; meet them there with violence,
and not on their home ground. ” She cloaked her face with white.
But Kembirel grimaced, and spoke his mind to her.
“Daughter, much I love you, but your shawl is dirty;
men everywhere know it. They will choose a new Eye
when the kawntradd day dawns, and not one of my house.”
Arlean faltered then, and uncovered her face.
“Lord of Alba, I hear, and accept your judgement.
Yet I spoke lies for you, to preserve your standing.
The captain will be lord, and not just lord, but king,
if he does not die soon. When I saw his coming,
on the night of the storm, I saw his ship riding
on the wake of the moon, and the crown capped his mast.
Tarven filled up his sails with the wind of the moon,
as he came in glory to Alba our island.”
Kembirel spoke to her, his niece whom he adored.
“You have worked all these ills, and brought doom to this house.
Prophecy speaks of one chosen by lady Moon
who will be Alba’s king. I have been his regent,
his castellan only, and I almost killed him.
Now my course is certain, and fate will doom our house.”
Arlean’s garment shone, white like the purest light,
and she drew herself up. “My lord and my uncle,
there is still a way through. The captain may yet die,
and you will be great yet, lord and king of Alba.
The mountain men will bow, the men of the shore, too.
Kemblis will mourn her loss, and our star will arise.
Alba among princes, she will be glorious…”
She might have said more then, but Kembirel arose,
and seized her by the throat, clapping hand to her mouth.
“Speak no witchcraft, my niece,” said Kembirel in rage.
“I’ll not hear any lies of how my power can grow,
or my house gains glory by slaying unarmed men.
Slave-taking is one thing; killing the Moon’s chosen
is another matter. Had they died on the beach,
matters might be different; we play now with new rules.”
But Arlean spoke on, said what was in her heart,
the words the shawl gave her, the threads of destiny.
“Hear me, lord and uncle, and give ear to my speech.
Without my guidance now, your house and line will fall.
The oak will be cut down, and the stones of your hall
will be a fearsome ruin, avoided by good men.
Stay your hand, uncle; heed my advice and live.”
But Kembirel’s rage grew; he gave a wordless shout,
and swift took up his knife, snicking it from his sheath.
With a single swift stroke, he cut across her throat,
and through his niece’s neck, cutting away her head.
Her head stump fountained then, and blood pumped out of her,
Soaking through the white shawl. Her head bounced seven times.
Kembirel wiped his sword, and sheathed it at his side.
“I’ll go blind to my fate, than take your false advice.”
So the Eye of Alba died on the eve of feud,
her shawl stained with lying, but bleached again with truth.
She who might have brought peace became the first victim,
for war and endless strife began with that one blow.
Kembirel left her corpse in the courtyard for dogs,
and then told his brother the deed which he had done.
Kembrun frowned at the news, and bowed his head in grief,
but took compensation and accepted her death.
They went off in private, and spoke a good long time.
Then Kembrun went away, to visit the districts
and conduct the searching for a new Alban Eye.
There were eight candidates, but all of them were young,
and a storm was coming unlike any other.
None of them were ready to accept such a task.
Kembrun did what he could, but grief overwhelmed him.