The Song of Andiene - By Elisa Blaisdell

Chapter 1

This is the song of Andiene. This is the song of a few who went out and conquered a kingdom.

She was the youngest daughter, a mute and mindless child, or so they thought. Though her name was Andiene Rejin-Neve Mareja, there is little glory in being ninth heir to the throne.

If she had been born a hundred years earlier, she might have lived the kind of life her great-grandmothers lived—to be married for state, never set foot out of the great courtyard, and die of childbearing.

Those were gentler times. Born in the tenth age, when a queen could rule the city and land, she seemed likely to have a quicker and surer death.

She heard the bells ringing to welcome Year’s Beginning, to give thanks for the healing rain. They rang through all the great city. The sound deafened her. It beat through her body as though the wall to which she was bound pulsed to the deep tones.

If I ruled the city, these bells would never sound again, she thought furiously. I would tear their tongues from their mouths, and drown them in the deep sea!

She was no queen, but a helpless child. The bells rang on. Outside the courtyard walls, the people sang their songs of rejoicing. Andiene heard other sounds, nearer sounds, but she shut them from her mind. It is better, she thought, not to ask for mercy, than to ask where none will be given. No use to weep, when there are none to pity your weeping. No use to beg, when laughter is the reply.

Two-score soldiers, and as many prisoners, filled the courtyard. The ones who had built it were dead and turned to dust long before the proud Rejiseja entered the land, so there were none to say what purpose the rings sunk deep into white stone had served. They served well now to hold prisoners, prisoners who had been lords, and rulers of the land.

The voices grew silent. Two colors blurred before Andiene’s eyes, red and white—the white of festival robes and fresh scrubbed tiles, and the red of heart’s blood, spreading in deep wide stains across robes and tiles. Andiene closed her eyes. Her mind wandered in a labyrinth of pride and hate, grief and fear, wavering on the edge of madness.

Silence—such a long silence—she opened her eyes and stared across the courtyard to the far wall, where Nahil leaned at his ease, and smiled as he watched his brother, Ranes, who had been king.

“So, now there is one left of your brood, and then I am your closest heir,” he said. “Did you ever dream you would live to see the day?”

“The people will tear you in pieces,” Ranes answered, forcing the words hoarsely from a dry throat.

“Do you think so?” Nahil motioned an overeager soldier to be patient. “Listen!”

Outside, a herald called, “Reji Marates! Nahil Reji! Veive Nahil! Veive Reji!”

Though it was the old language, the crowd understood it and took up the cry. “Long live Nahil! Long live the King!” Again the bells rolled their heavy notes through the air, but the people’s singing, their rejoicing, almost drowned the sound of the noisy bells.

If I were ruler of this land, I would hunt these people, the fickle people, the faithless people, as a hawk hunts a grasskit, Andiene thought.

A voice answered her, a dry whisper, tugging at the edges of her mind. You can, child of the Rejiseja; you can; you will. You have the power to destroy them all. Listen, and I will show you. She listened, and tried to understand.

Nahil’s smile was sweeter yet, as he watched his brother. “They spoke too soon to acclaim me, but I wanted you to have the joy of seeing how readily they took up the cry. I almost wish, my dear brother, that you could live to see that I will be more honored than ever you were.”

Ranes, king for the little while that he would yet live, clenched his teeth and did not answer. He had lived a long life, for a king, and had lived by force and trickery. Now his tricks and strength had failed him. His agonized gaze wandered over the courtyard. The bodies sagged against the ropes that held them to the wall. The blood still ran and spread in wider stains. All dead but one: wife, sons, daughters, his children’s children. The soldiers had held his eyes open when he would have looked away. Every sword-stroke was burned into his mind. All dead, all