You know that I can’t stay away from Khyre and the Tormaben for long, even when Katie is tugging at my attention. This time I have an excellent excuse in the form of the J.A.Mes Press Rebirth Anthology – really, go look, there’s links to the other submissions, and still time to enter something of your own, if you’re feeling all fresh and renewed.
Title: After the Tale has Ended
Author Name: Alex Brightsmith
The Tormaben say that when Tyvid Aratarran came back into the world he came as naked as a newborn and, like a newborn, wailing at his loss. We do not know what babies lose, when they come into this world of ours, that they mourn so bitterly, but Tyvid had lost his lady, the lady for whom he would have given his own life – and had lost something else, also, though that knowledge had been taken from him.
To the Khyrans there the matter ends. Their Lady Waiting forfeit her own life to redeem him, and if it did not come out quite as she intended that was a matter between her and the Khyrans’ own trickster god. They have no further interest in the man who had made his own choice gladly, and found himself compelled to live the life his lover could not face, the life alone. Still, it is worth knowing the tale even if you have no intention of straying beyond the Provinces. It may earn you a meal in a tavern one night, if your fellow customers are traders from the plains, and you may find that children ask after the fate of Tyvid, if they are too young to have learnt that the Tormaben are of no account.
He came naked, as I have said, and he came screaming, and he found himself on the plains he knew so well, and curled himself up just where he fell, to await the death that had been denied him, but that was not to be. It is not the way of the god of the plains to abandon his people, and there were Tormaben within earshot of that heartsick cry; before Tyvid could suffer even hunger or thirst he found the blade of a torfal at his throat, and the smiling face of a Tormaben girl behind it, wearing the scarlet and gold of his own hearth.
He told her, it is said, that he was a brigand, and better left for dead, but when she said that a brigand who would admit his guilt was on the path to salvation he had no choice but to go with her meekly, for though he craved an ending he would not place his guilt upon her shoulders by forcing her to use the torfal against him.
So it was that he found himself amongst his own people, and they asked how he had come once more to the deep plains, who had been heard of last fighting at the side of Khyrans. He would have told them, and eased his soul in the telling, but it seemed a seal had been set upon his tongue, and he could say only that the fight had gone well, and that all who had fought with him would return too, in their own time. It grieved him that he could say no more, but they were of his own hearth, and they knew his loss, and did not press him, but waited until he might be ready to answer fully.
He was home. They clothed him and fed him, and restored to him the horses that were his by right. Ebla, who had found him, even tried, with a girl’s innocence and a woman’s desire, to win him. He sang with them at the fireside and he went out with them hunting in the morning dew, and he saw the beauty of the plains, and of the dew, and of Ebla in the firelight, too, but that beauty was a cold, strange, thing to him, a fact, but a fact of no importance.
Now that band was led by one Alrin, who had seen many young people through their grief, and knew the signs of a frozen heart, however well they might be masked. He got from Tyvid a promise that whatever he decided he would not act upon it until he had spoken with a priest. He made no promise in his turn that they would find a priest quickly, and Tyvid found his first flicker of grim amusement in noting the meandering of their course, for the Tormaben give all reverence to their priests, and trust them in all things that pertain to the ways of gods, but they fall back on their own counsel in all things that pertain to the ways of men.
So it ran, until one morning he found, as he returned from the hunt, that the smile on his lips was matched by laughter in his heart, and the smile and the laughter died in the moment that he noticed them, and Alrin was there to see the change.
“It is well to remember,” he said, “but you are too young to have only memories.”
“You have told me that some dozen times,” Tyvid answered, “and I have smiled and doubted you. Where have you found the patience to tell me again and again?”
“In knowing that it is not a thing that can be told, but only a thing that one can be reminded of, when one is ready to remember.”
With that he did remember, everything, not only the flat light of the long dark, and the fight before the gates, but the thing that the trickster had told him, so many months before.
“My son,” he said, in wonder. “I have a son, and I must go to him.”
The Tormaben move fast, and by that evening he was halfway to the Shap. The rest is just as the Khyrans tell it, except this:
On the road he met a traveller, a man with a young man’s stride and an old man’s gaze. He knew him at a glance, and as he had a little of the recklessness about him, still, of a man without hope, and he said, in open anger
“You made me forget, and my son has needed a father.”
“And now you have had time to heal, and may be the father he has needed.”