They stood apart a time, with their men standing ‘round,
Conversing quietly: Avren, Wellan, Pramil;
Pramil, Avren, Wellan; Wellan, Pramil, Avren.
No one knows what they said, those three men together.
But then the kawntradd horn broke in on their converse,
And they broke with plotting, and spoke aloud to all.
“We have an agreement which we wish you to share:
Give your consent to us, shore-folk and mountain men.
Avren rebuilds his boat, that much is required,
But Pramil will help him, with tools and extra men;
Wellan will host Avren, and go abroad with him
to Pendaran island. Let us go claim our seats,
and put up a brave show, and say nothing of this
until our chance arrives. Let’s see how many votes
we might swing to our side, ere we whack the beehive.”
So both kindreds agreed, and they went to the cleft,
The gap in the brown rock where the Black Cloak’s stone stands:
Alone in Orien, among all the islands,
Alba holds its kawntradd beside the Black Cloak’s post
Under the open sky. A sloping ring of seats
Lie vested on the slope, each place marked by standards:
The banners of each house and their tribal totems.
Avren stayed with Wellan while everyone took seats.
Then the black cloak came in, and the kawntradd began.
The brehon all in black recognized each speaker
timed speeches with his breath, counting exhalations
And adding up minutes. He cut some people off
When they ran out of time, and kept the agenda,
Finishing old business and settling accounts
Of contracts completed, duties done and paid for.
Then he opened the floor to any new business
With the usual words specified in the law,
“Let him rise who would make any accusation
or make compensation for accidental deeds.”
Wellan almost spoke then, but Pramil held him back,
Motioning for silence from his sheep-herding friend.
There was the normal stuff, divorces and age-death,
A couple of weddings, announcements of children,
Seven new betrothals, and all that kind of thing.
Then came all the murders with compensation paid:
Accident acknowledged, forgiveness accepted.
Then came all the murders without compensation,
Blessedly few that year, and renewal of feuds
Held over from before, warnings given and heard.
Now Pramil gave the nod, and Wellan spoke his mind.