Garman ruled in Pendar, a man of skill and strength,
well-thought-of all over, and kindly regarded.
He saw Avren arrive from his tower window,
with Pramil at his side in a boat of leather.
“This fool wants to be king; he fits the conditions,
at least in surface ways. I am Alba’s lord still,
I will not give her up, not to some young upstart,
who would usurp my place. It’s true I’m not a king,
since I have no courage to face the barrow-walk.
But this one won’t be king, not if I can stop him.”
So he called his war-band, thirty armed warriors
to oppose Avren’s ten, his little band of friends.
They met in his courtyard, and demanded their price,
new cloaks for everyone, and gold in abundance.
Garman haggled with them, but paid what they had asked.
Then they marched to the beach, to oppose Avren’s men.
The old pirate led them, Garman in his crimson,
down to the waterfront, past the booksellers’ stalls.
“You!” he called to Avren, disdaining any name,
“You come to give battle upon our peaceful shore,
bringing swords to a fair, disrupting trade and truce.
You and your home island will be anathema:
No one will let you in if you dare to land here
with violence in your plans. No island will accept
any ship from your ports if you come like pirates
to Pendaran’s book fair. Go home to your bedmates,
you men of Alba’s shore: find solace if you can
in the arms of a maid; more likely a boy, or
your sheepfolds I suspect; trouble not your betters.”
He and his men all laughed, hooting their derision.
Avren stood in the bow, unfurling his banner,
the broad silken pennon that Wellan had given.
“I am not a pirate,” he shouted to Garman,
calmer than the heron plucking minnows from marsh.
“I come to claim the crown, great Alba’s tiara,
that Pendaran’s masters took long ages ago.
You will give it to me, freely with your own hand,
and let me take it home, back to Alba’s people
so I can be their king. Garman, you will do this:
It is not your treasure, and you cannot wear it,
though you rule ten more years and sleep with every goat
that leaps on Alba’s heights. Give up Alba’s circlet,
you bandit and pirate, and set free the people
of Alba’s honest clans. Before all the islands,
I make my claim public: Alba shall have a king!”