No recap, children. I am assuming you have read book one and book two already.. I will write a recap for the book... eventually.
Now to our regularly scheduled story.
The crowd waiting, with varying degrees of patience and desperation to get into High King Eioth’s House, was large, smelly and noisy. Ionia tor Diath, midwife and herb-woman, added to her own description, exhausted.
They were exhausted because they tramped through mud and rain and the wreckage of their homes and fields to reach this House in the chilly North West Demesne. She was exhausted because the call to attend a difficult birthing in the refugee camp came before midnight and was followed by the need to attend to an infected foot, and a case of lung congestion - a not uncommon complication of the recent flooding and the turning of the year toward winter. The lung congestion case worried at her. She did not have the medications to treat, well, any illness. A serious lung infection, without the herbs she purchased each season from the traders, without the spare room in her comfortable home where she distilled her medicines, without the aid and support of the other herb women of her home town, would end the life of the child she attended that day.
Had already ended the life of more than one mortal refugee.
The cold, the lack of shelter and food, had ended the life of more than one newborn and its mother in the last few weeks.
Ionia closed her eyes.
So many dead, drowned, buried in mud slides, lost in flooding with their fate unknown, and now so many to die if the refugees received no aid, no food, no shelter.
And the line she was in took another step forward as the guards turned another hopeful refugee away.
The elvan guard, almost as exhausted as she, herself, shook his head.
“You cannot shelter here, tor.”
“I am already admitted to shelter here,” said Ionia, holding out her papers. “As you see, Lady Regent Halidan ordered my admittance and the admittance of all herb-women who present themselves at this gate.”
She said the words softly as, yesterday when she’d give this reminder the next half dozen mortals waiting all insisted they also were herb-healers and the guards held Ionia responsible for the resulting arguments.
The guard raised her personal papers to the light and frowned.
“The seal is not bespelled,” he said, holding the papers out. “Go away.”
“The seal was placed after the weather spells broke,” said Ionia, “and, as you well know, no set spells can be applied.”
“Without the spell I cannot be certain that your mark is not a fake.”
Ionia did not sigh. Did not groan. Instead she said, patiently and slowly, “If you will check last nights records you will see guard Netro was notified of a need for a midwife at the seventh hour. I passed through this exact gate at a quarter after the hour and am only now returning. If you look at the records,” she calculated the passage of the days, “fourteen days ago, at the eleventh hour, I was admitted to the House and am part of Healer Lenneth’s retinue.”
There were some grumbling complaints from those waiting behind her and the guard waved her to one side and while one of his colleagues began arguing with the next refugee he searched through the records until he found Ionia’s name.
“How can I know if you are this Ionia tor Diath?” he moaned, looking at the spell-less stamp. “You could be any woman. They could have stolen your papers.”
“If they are willing to go without sleep and attend laboring women they may be me with my blessing,” said Ionia, and regretted her statement immediately.
“Oh, you think that do you? Are you selling your name and papers so that others may come in and eat our meat?”
“You have had meat at your table? You are blessed.” Ionia scowled at the elf. He was tired and frustated and likely hungry and weary of facing people that he could not help, just as she was.“If you doubt me summon Healer Lenneth. He knows my face and will declare my identity and right to enter.”
The guard leaned into the courtyard and waved over one of his fellows. A message was sent for Lenneth.
“Sit on the ground, over there. Outside the gate.”
“Outside?” Ionia stared at the much disturbed muddy earth. “I’ll stand.”
“You’ll sit or you’ll leave,” snapped the guard and waited until Ionia settled herself and her heavy canvas bag on the ground.
Lenneth’s arrival was surprisingly swift. As Ionia lifted herself slowly from the dirt, rubbing her wear back, the Water priest took the guard aside and delivered a low voiced and intense reprimand. The guard muttered and grumbled but eventually agreed to put a notation that the three herb-women currently within the House at the command of Lady Regent Halidan would be treated with respect.
“Now, Ionia, of your kindness, hurry along to your rest. I must return to the synod hall. Matters there are exciting today.”
“Have they found a spell to repair the weather spells?” demanded Ionia, running to keep up with Lenneth’s longer legs.
“No.” He glanced about. “I cannot speak of it… oh.”
He stopped suddenly. Ionia’s knees buckled as she stopped. Lenneth stretched, striving to see over the top of the crowd. The mass of people in the training ground surged and flowed, toward the House and away. Ionia struggled against the flow of panicked people, pushing against mortals and elves, the homeless and the House guard, all determined to be see the cause of the excitement. Ionia was small for a mortal and very light in her form. It was useless for her to forge a way through the mass. Instead she, impolitely, seized hold of Lenneth’s tabard and placed herself within his shadow.
The crowd surged again, pushing both of them away from the House and a troop of the House Guard, fully armed and stern, quick time marched across the training ground then formed a square forcing the crowd back and back.
In the center of the training yard ten archers stood in line facing a figure, finely attired with the sigil of South East upon his tabard. Ionia did not know any of the High Lords by sight but she knew that sigil as well as she knew her own name, her mother’s name, her grandmother’s name.
“Chandri,” she whispered and was hushed by Lenneth.
It was him. It had to be him, although all she can see what the back of his head and the guards who towered over him.
“What has happened?” she demanded but no one answered.
Ionia stared as Chandri - Chandri, High Lord of the South East. Chandri, the monster of her childhood and youth - stood in the center of the training ground gazing about as if the audience and archers both were beneath his notice.
After an instant of horrified paralysis Ionia joined the crowded pushing closer. She was far from being the only person drawn forward but she did not have the strength, the rank, the power to bring herself to the forefront. The thrust and motion of the crowd drove her closer to the walls of the great House than the training grounds. Tho she possessed the strength necessary to her profession, Water Priesthood trained herb-woman, she was in form slight and small. Yielding to the greater power of the crowd, much as one yielded to the weight of life’s burdens or a fast running river, she let it bear her over to the Eastern staircase hoping that vantage point would serve her. She slipped under the arm of an elvan servant of the House until she reached a point half way up those stairs and could go no further. There she clung to the balustrade and refused to give up her place.
Another figure descended from the House and addressed the guards in a low voice, after which archers formed a line facing Chandri.
Chandri twisted and struggled against his bonds, waved his fists toward the archers.
“What insult is this?” he shrieked. “Do you not know who I am? I am Chandri, who should be your High King. Rise up. Rise up and throw down that cursed thief who holds my throne.”
Sullen silence answered him.
“How dare you lay hands on one so much your better?” continued Chandri. “Do you not know the honor and deference due to High Lord?”
An archivist stepped out of the shadows of the House and raised a page. Ionia and most of the witnesses were too far away to hear the words but they were repeated and repeated in a rising wave of outrage.
“Chandri! Chandri shattered the weather spells.”
“What? No.” Came another voice.
“Yes,” said Ionia. “Yes, he would do that.”
Ionia wondered how and why Chandri had done so but it was not important.
“Chandri is to die!” shouted a figure in the crowd, repeating the archivist’s words. “For treason. For murder. For destroying all magic. Chandri is to die!”
“Destroying magic?” those words burned through crowd. “Chandri destroyed all magic.”
Ionia’s heart clenched. Permanently? she wondered but did not speak the word.
“Destroyed the weather spells!” came the cry and with a roar the mixed witnesses raised fists and voices to demand the death of Chandri.
It was not long in coming. The archers could scarcely miss from their positions. Even while Chandri raged and shouted the arrows flew and thudded into him, bringing a sudden silence.
“Excuse me,” said a soft voice.
Ionia turned in time to see Lenneth making his stately way through the crowd and across to where the crumbled figure lay. He knelt and a moment later rose and faced the House. Ionia leaned out as far as she dared but could not see who the healer addressed.
“I, Lenneth, confirm life has departed from the acknowledged criminal Chandri.”