To celebrate Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Discovering Diamonds is hosting a series of excerpts or articles written by our wonderful review team. For our author reviewers: the theme is an excerpt from one of their novels portraying royalty - or an equivalent leader-type character. For our non-writer reviewers: a favourite monarch and/or novel about Royalty... In other words, an enjoyable mix of entertainment to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II's longest reign in British history! 70 years!
God Bless you Ma'am.
(say ma'am to rhyme with 'jam' not 'farm')
Swearing the Oath
An excerpt from Empire’s Bard: the gathering of landowners to confirm—or reject—the fourteen-year-old Ruar as Teannasach (Chieftain, roughly) of Linrathe.
“We could not have held Sorham,” Daoíre said. “Too many Härren saw the Marai favourably. Too many marriages and trade alliances made across the narrow sea.”
“Not only is the treaty favourable,” Ruar said, “but I will remind you again of Lord Sorley’s loyalty to me, your Teannasach. He saw the need for me to come north to my people, accompanied me and fought at my side, taking a wound.”
“Ruar,” Liam said, “you forget yourself. No support from the Eirënnen has yet been offered.”
“Donnalch’s son is your choice, Raséair?” Ingold asked. “Yours and the other men of your house?”
“He is,” Liam said. A reluctant choice, I knew. “The boy should succeed his father.”
“Then let us hold that oath-giving and get on with the council,” Ingold said.
“How old are you?” the Eirën who had challenged me asked.
“Fourteen,” Ruar replied.
“Na,” the man said. The northern pronunciation: his lands would be near the Sterre, then. “You’re only a youngling. Daoíre, will you not stand?”
“I will not,” he said. “I am not of the Teannasach’s blood.”
“But your sons —” The man stopped. “Forgive me, Daoíre. They died early on, did they not?”
“On the Sterre,” Daoíre said quietly. I hadn’t known. Hadn’t asked. “With yours, Utar.”
So many men had fallen that day, fighting against a strong Marai force supported by too many men of Sorham. Surrender had come quickly, and shortly afterwards, the quiet organization of the Ti’acha and certain torps into a network for those who opposed Fritjof’s rule.
“Shall we give our oaths?” Ingold said, after a moment’s silence.
“No,” Utar said. “I want something decided. The lad clearly favours Lord Sorley, and I still don’t accept his right to sign the treaty. We should settle that question first.”
“What question?” A woman’s voice. Birgit, wife to the Eirën Sullis; he’d died with only an infant daughter as his heir, and Birgit had declared her intent to run the torp on her own.
“The question of consequence,” Utar said. “Is he to be allowed such a presumption? He was not an envoy. I say it was almost treasonous.”
“If I am a traitor to anyone,” I said, “it is Sorham. What would you have had me do, Utar?” I felt a flare of irritation, damped it down.
“Let Cillian na Perras sign it,” he said.
A laugh from among the men. “Utar,” someone said with an impatient edge, “he is sworn to the southern Empire.”
“A traitor long before that, from what I’ve heard,” Utar said.
That first flare of irritation blossomed into anger. “A traitor?” I growled, my chair scraping against flagstones as I stood to lean over the table. “Who do you think negotiated these terms? Could you have done better?”
“Not likely,” I heard from among the men. “Utar, shut up. You could barely sell fleeces to the Marai.”
Voices rose, in argument and defence. Liam pushed himself to his feet. “Quiet!” he shouted, smashing a fist on the tabletop. The hall fell silent. Blood pulsed in my temple.
“The loyalties of Cillian na Perras are known to me,” he said, his old voice quavering a little. “I have no love for the man, and he could not have signed the treaty for Linrathe, but its terms are fair.”
“They are,” Ingold agreed.
“And Cillian na Perras is no traitor,” Hagen said. “I’ve known him all my life.”
A derisive snort from Utar earned him Liam’s silencing glare. I took a deep breath. “Were I not a toscaire, and sworn to the land and its people,” I said, “I would be first to offer my oath to Ruar.”
“Then I will be,” Ingold said, standing.
“First after his family.” Daoíre said.
“Aye,” Liam said. He coughed, shook his head for patience as he found his breath. “I cannot kneel, Ruar. You have my oath as your great-uncle and your regent, Teannasach.”
Daoíre swore next, and Oisín, and then Bhradaín, before the Eirënnen came, one by one, to pledge their loyalty to Ruar. Birgit, too: women did not usually make the oath, but as a landholder she was required to. When she and the others arrived home, their torpari men would swear too, their lords standing proxy for the Teannasach. Men who were not landholders: the army, the Comiádha, the travelling teachers and traders, the scáeli’en; all would swear the oath too, at different times and places. Unless Ruar refused a man: it was his right. I wondered if he would accept Utar’s.
Bhradaín, recording who swore their allegiance this day, bent close to my ear. “See who is last,” he murmured. “Utar, and others whose lands abut the coast and the Sterre. They will bear watching, in the years to come.”
Universal Link: Empire’s Bard: https://books2read.com/empiresbard
Not content with two careers as a research scientist and an educator, Marian L Thorpe decided to go back to what she’d always wanted to do and be a writer. Author of the alternative world medieval trilogy Empire’s Legacy, Marian also has published short stories and poetry. Her life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history informs her novels, while her avocations of landscape archaeology and birding provide background to her settings. As well as writing and editing professionally, Marian oversees Arboretum Press, a small publishing imprint run as a collective.
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