TG Universes & Series:
The answers to some questions get complicated...
The Tide of Time
by Erin Halfelven
“Who are you?” I asked. “Where did you come from?” I spoke English. He had something of the air of an aging conman about him, and I didn’t know what kind of answer I might get.
He spread his hands as if apologizing. Big knobby hands that seemed to have done a lot of work. Perhaps I had been unfair with the conman label. “I am who you see before you, Kelvan Apdegrote,” he said. “An old man who has lived in this city for more than fifty years.”
He smiled which made him look charming, instead of slightly manic and maybe carnivorous like when he grinned. “My last name comes from when I was a child and Henrik Blodde himself gave me a grote to watch his horse.” A grote was one of the quarter-sized silver coins worth four fenniks, or pennies. He reminisced some more. “It was down by the bridge to Sudwarrow. And those four pennies were the beginning of my fortune.”
He did not look remarkable. He might have been sixty or older, with rounded shoulders and beard and hair that were well past grey and nearly white. He had clear, healthy-looking blue eyes, a sizable nose and a full set of teeth, which in its way was a bit remarkable. Most people his age I had met in this world had a few gaps in their smile. Maybe that’s why he grinned wider and more often than other people in the city. He looked a bit like someone you might have seen in a movie somewhere, playing someone’s uncle or grandfather. Lovable but maybe not quite honest.
He didn’t seem afraid of us, despite Lillakatye’s fierce warrior-woman expression and fingering of the knife she wore on her belt. She stood as tall as he did and looked him in the eye. But he kept glancing toward the hand I had in my pocket as if he knew about the Glock I had brought with me from another world. Even so, he looked more curious than apprehensive.
Katye repeated my second question after a brief digression into Bloddish. “Nae gie unswe nich duur skaite-butter, altwira.” Don’t give us any of your shit-butter, old man. Then in English, “Where did you come from?”
“Right here,” Kelvan said in the same language. He grinned. “London. Or as they call it here-and-now, Lundenna.” He made an expansive gesture to take in the room, the inn, the street outside and even the whole city.
He did seem to have a slight accent, but I had heard so much Bloddish recently that I could not be sure what English accent he might be using. Not a thick one at any rate but maybe something you might hear on the BBC. Or was he just rusty at speaking it?
“You came here as a child?” I asked. Well, so had I. Alenna, me here-and-now, wouldn’t be fifteen for a few more days.
He didn’t answer that question. Instead, he seemed to consider how I had asked it./ “You two are Americans?” he asked. “Extraordinary. Three travelers in the city at the same time and all speaking English.” He shook his shaggy head. “The gods must be up to something.” He made as if to look behind him then shook the gesture off like he didn’t want to appear paranoid.
I narrowed my eyes at him, but he only grinned at me. “What do you know about the gods?” I asked, privately annoyed that my intimidating Deputy Sheriff glare had been left behind when I traveled to this world. I knew I looked now like a high school freshman cheerleader dressed up to guest star on Game of Thrones.
He shrugged. “Not any more than they want me to know, I’m sure. Have either of you met any other travelers?”
Travelers. He meant people like me who had come from another world. I didn’t intend to answer him, but I must have shaken my head.
“No, huh?” he said, looking at me. “But you have had dealings with the gods? In dreams, maybe? Word is out that you have Dunnar’s lightning in a bell you carry.”
Lillakatye snorted. “The hire-swords,” she said in Bloddish, Lang and Cordle, who we had added to our group a dozen miles or so before we were attacked. “The tale likely won them a few pints.” Pint was almost the same word in Bloddish, Saxon and English, I noticed, but shook off the distraction.
I realized ruefully that no one had told our redshirts not to talk about it and it might not have done any good if someone had. I’d been a soldier, tavern talk about fights you’d been in was one of the perks of the job. Katye raised an eyebrow at me and I nodded, in agreement. Nothing to be done about it now.
Kelvan looked at my tall companion, bringing us back to introducing ourselves. “And you can call on Freya’s light to heal wounds, it is said.” He wasn’t asking.
She traded a grin with him and another shrug with me. “Could be,” she grunted, switching back to English. She put a hand up and pulled on the thick yellow braid hanging down her back. “I think I kind of like you, old man. But I don’t trust you any further than I could punt your fat ass. What can you do? Have the gods, whatever they are, been good to you as well?”
I thought I detected a bit of New York or New Jersey in the way she said that and I couldn’t help smiling a bit. It struck me suddenly what a remarkable person was Lillakatye, six feet or so of blonde Valkyrie with an attitude that would not be out of place in the front four of a championship football team back home. Had she also been male, there-and-then?
Kelvan, again, did not seem non-plussed by her challenge. He waggled his bushy eyebrows, made a couple of stagey passes with his hands and gestured at the fire in the brazier across the room. It flared suddenly, burned green, then red before subsiding into smaller, ordinary yellow flames.
“Hoo, hah,” said Lillakatye, and Kilda suppressed a shriek. We all looked at her, having mostly forgotten she was in the room. She had stepped back against the front wall, as far from Kelvan as she could get and had one hand at her mouth while the other reached out toward me.
I moved over and gave her a side hug to comfort her. “Nu, ikka nu,” I murmured. “You’re okay, just a little fireworks show.” She was my responsibility and I hers, and she was one of the eight who had ridden into ambush and survived. We had a bond even beside that, since she knew part of my history with the original teenage witch Alenna.
“I don’t understand half of what is being said, then the fire goes black,” she whispered. She cut her eyes toward the brazier but did not look directly at it.
Black? I hadn’t seen that. Did it look different to… to someone who was not a traveler?
Kelvan smiled blandly at us. “I didn’t mean to frighten anyone,” he said in Bloddish. “Just a bit of foolery.” With a gesture, he produced the wooden drumstick from his sleeve again. “I was just pulling a leg to keep things light. Bite?” He offered the fake treat to Kilda.
Lillakatye snorted and Kilda shook her head, retreating a bit, but not toward the fire. “I’ll wait by the door,” she said.
“Don’t stand right in front of it in case Valto gets a knot in his tail and comes crashing in,” I warned her. She nodded and took a seat out of the way on a stool.
I glanced back at Kelvan. He looked, not anxious but as if he were waiting for something that might be unpleasant. When he realized he had my attention again, he tugged on his beard before speaking. “So we’ve each been touched and given gifts by the gods, who must surely want something from us.”
“Habst du en thred denn unlykk, altwira?” asked Lillakatye. Have you a thread to untangle, old man?
Kelvan shrugged. “I think it must have something to do with the upcoming choice as to whether to elect a new High King,” he said, speaking English again.
“Wait, what?” I asked. “I heard something about this but when and where is it?”
“At Midsummer, three months from now, all the Bloddish realms will meet at Dingwald to discuss this and hear arguments from other concerned parties. If they decide to elect a High King, they will probably conclude the business right there. The rest of the island can’t hope to withstand whatever a unified Blodland might want to do, so it’s going to be a big deal, one way or another,” Kelvan explained. “I’m supposed to attend to present the views of Lundenna to the Volkerding.”
His little speech was mostly English but some of the words were in Bloddish, or maybe Saxon. Volkerding meant parliament, or maybe congress. And Dingwald was Parliament Wood.
That still seemed remote and unrelated to Alenna or myself. “Ikka den sao?” I asked. So what?
He pointed at me and answered in English. “Your brother Valto has been named to be there, and that big teenager, Redfish, as well, to represent their lords who are important nobles. Also, it’s likely that the Remice Dux of Song Isle will send LuRenart to at least listen in.” LuRenart was Zenner, another of my companions. “So you are quite firmly caught in this web.” Yeah, well. The Duke, or Dux, of Song Isle was Alenna’s mother’s new husband; in effect, my stepfather.
“Olberggenir app Helskaiten!” I protested. Mountains of Hell-shit, meaning he was full of it. You can’t beat Bloddish for expressive cussing.
He laughed, shaking his head. “It’s true. Not to mention that your fiance, Eovil of Esvelk, has been suggested as a candidate for High King if it comes to a vote. He’s an Ondakong and his grandmother was one of Henrik Blodde’s daughters.”
Henrik Blodde was the legendary conqueror who had turned most of Il Bian, the island called Britain in my world, into Blodsey, named after himself. The conquest had happened almost ninety years ago and Henry had been dead for sixty years. He’d been the first, and so far, the only High King of the Bloddings.
I didn’t know much more than that about the history of Alenna’s world. I needed more information but I didn’t even know what questions to ask or who to start asking. Apdegrote looked like my best chance for a willing and capable interviewee. I had so much I wanted to know.
But Alenna’s past hung over me and clouded my intent. Alenna’s Tahtie, her dad, Adelwalt, the Orley of Moleena, had done well for her it seemed, choosing such a husband to be. And yet she had run away and used magic to leave me in her place.
Grandson of Henry the Conqueror? What kind of power did the man have? Could he send a small army into Lundenna, the Free City, and winkle me out like an oyster. Yikes.
I found another stool and sat down, looking at Lillakatye for support.
She hadn’t been distracted by my internal argument and stayed focused on the immediate questions. “How do you know this stuff?” Katye demanded, her lush blonde brows gathered like clouds over her winter blue eyes.
Her intensity brought me back to the moment, too, and back on my feet. I wondered just how many free drinks Lang and Cordle had gotten off our adventures and whether our Warwife would try to take it out of their hides.
Kelvan gestured with his hands, showing his palms while grinning. “You see before you the chief representative of the Fourth Estate in the here-and-now. Information is my business.”
Katye and I boggled as that penetrated. We traded glances. I stood up again because Kilda had come over to try to share my stool. I patted her on the shoulder before moving away. “You….? You publish a newspaper?” I asked him, in English, of course, since I didn’t know any Bloddish words for the verb or the noun. But he surely didn’t mean a blog or a podcast or something like a rumormonger or medieval equivalent of a information broker.
Kelvan nodded. “De Tyddingr app Lundenna,” he said with some pride.
The London Tides. I wanted to hit him for multiple reasons.
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