Orien: XXV. Avren Assembles His Boat

So Avren built his boat, all that bloody summer,
While master Kembirel and Wellan of the hills
Chased one another’s men, killing or wounding them.
Pramil, for his own part, kept well out of the fight,
Paid rich compensation for the men he had felled
On the kawntradd hillside. Fifty ells of woolens,
And seven elaborate braziers of gilded bronze,
Twenty wine amphoras, and twenty of oil,
A pair of crimson gloves like apprentices wear
With a promise to teach some boy the sailor’s art,
And two yellow sashes of hardy pentasilk,
The badge of sorcerors, and three ruby brooches;
Also two hands of gold, and seven of silver,
And twenty ebon marks, and a tun of coppers
Completed the payment Pramil paid out for peace.

For all that he had paid, Pramil did much damage.
Forty-two men they felled, hewed them down in their prime,
Sending some to the grave, others to Indigo
To rest in the warm care of those gracious healers,
Often for weeks or months with such terrible wounds
From blades of old puissance and terrible naming.
Pramil had done all right, halving Wellan’s danger
Just as he had promised ere the feuding began.
He and his men cut down half of Kembirel’s men,
And the old man with the bloody white shawl
Graven on his honor, made peace to keep his flank secure.
It’s rare for such compacts to make a lasting peace.
Kembirel and Pramil? :: Both were aware of this,
Knew they would finish foes, if Kembirel survived.
So Pramil saved his clan, at least for the moment.

Meanwhile, Avren worked, assembling his ship.
It had eighty oxhides that kept the water out,
and a hull-frame of ash upon which the hull stretched,
And a keel of sky-oak, four long well-hewn pieces
Fitted all together with ebon pegs and thongs.
Avren liked a puzzle: he worked with eagerness.
Quickly he pegged the keel, then assembled the frame,
Tying together her ribs, joining them to the knees,
Setting oars and leeboard, attaching her rudder.
He stitched her hull again with threads of strong linen,
Waxed to keep water out; filled her with good ballast,
Rigged her sails and cabins after he set the masts.
All was in readiness, and Avren could depart.

Yet first he needed friends, and some boon companions,
To help him cross the sea. He needed stores and food,
Some refilled water-tuns, and decent directions
To happy Pendaran thirty-two leagues away,
Across the wide waters. He needed his friends back,
The men from Tarvenis who crossed Mother Ocean.
Avren was their captain, but they were his crew,
Such men as had survived. Nothing would persuade him
To leave those men behind, and Pramil had promised
To help free Avren’s crew. When the boat was finished,
Pramil could not delay, nor turn Avren away
From that pressing topic to some other subject.
So Pramil consented: When kodoss-month approached,
and time was auspicious for noble departures,
he spoke to all his men, and told them his thinking.

“This man Avren is good; he’s a hardy worker.
He knows the ocean sways, yet made a long crossing.
The white moon favors him. So does my friend Wellan.
You saw him build a boat, test true for journey-man.
He’s better than I thought when he first came to us.
He’s opened a doorway to a long passage route
That might make our fortunes if we take the trouble
To safeguard this bounty by bowing to some king.
This Avren is noble, for all that he’s a priest,
And we might do better if he should find the crown
And hold the throne rightly. War is bad for buisness,
But feud is doubly so. Wellan has his reasons,
So this is our best chance. Should we support Avren,
And send him oversea to happy Pendaran
In search of Alba’s crown, or fight Kembirel now?”

They discussed the matter, and in the face of it
Felt they had little choice but to follow Pramil,
And give Avren their help. So the shore folk did that.
They gave of their substance, their clothing and silver.
Tishan sold off his land and his last four cargoes,
All that remained unsold from four long trading trips,
To buy back Avren’s men from dire slavery,
three of eight survivors, fulfilling prophesy,
Though no one knew it then: “one ransoms two good men
For Alba’s future king still searching for a crown.”
Kishel took his longsword and sold it at auction,
And used all the profits, and bought another one.
Pramil bought the last one who was reckoned a slave,
By now for such a price that others thought him mad,
For spending such a sum for such a lousy slave.

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