This epic poem follows members of two Marahitte clans on a perilous adventure that could strengthen or destroy the alliance between their clans. “The Lay of Brielle and Tavish” is set around the time of Book 4 of The Firstborn’s Legacy.
It was originally posted here and here.
Away west there used to be,
Upon the land twixt Aimar and sea
Where plains and rolling hills there be,
The people we call Marah.
Not a realm nor kingdom were they,
Nor bonded either by tongue or fay.
The people of Marah, as they say,
Were like the land: Wild and free.
Themselves they saw as separate clans:
Eighteen spread throughout the lands
Always engaged in bloody stands,
Quick to make and break alliances.
Rhian and Keiran were two of those,
Allies for longer than most were foes.
A threat to their long peace arose
In the tenure of Oldon Chief.
A strange clan Rhian ever was,
Not wandering as any other clan does–
Had an ancient stone city over which to fuss
And guard with half their people.
Unlike as ever was young Keiran.
More still than Keir, their parent clan,
In small family units they roamed the land
Constantly in motion.
These two’s peace, on stone engraved,
Began when Keiran Garvis saved
Oldon Chief’s grandfather: The way was paved
For forging their alliance.
How strong they kept their peace
By this: At Rhian’s annual winter feast
The heir of Garvis would live at least
A month with the chief’s family.
In Oldon’s time, t’was Brielle fair
Of Keiran who would sojourn there.
Close she grew to his young heir,
Tavish the brave and true.
The winter she turned sixteen year,
Like always, she was staying there
When late at night their deepest fear
Came true: Cass attacked.
A devious clan was spiteful Cass,
Enemies with Keiran to the last.
Said Oldon to Tavish, “Get Brielle fast
And take her from our city.”
Through Rhian’s dark streets Tavish ran
For Brielle’s rooms, where he began
To call aloud and squeeze her hand
And wake her from her slumber.
“Awake,” said Tavish, “B’elle, we must go!
The city’s beset by dangerous foe.
To avoid our people’s shared woe,
I must get you safely out.”
She bolted up and grabbed her vest.
“We’ll go as soon as I am dressed.
I’ll follow; you know the city best,”
Fair Brielle said to Tavish.
They left in a moment, just as she said.
By Tavish’s lead, through alleys they sped.
Up to the east wall Tavish led
When foul Cass breached the west.
“There is no gate here,” Brielle cried,
Looking back with eyes stretched wide.
“There’s something better–” Tavish pried
The door from a hidden tunnel.
Into the dark, without a light,
They stepped; the door shut out the night.
“We’ll get out now, however goes the fight,”
Tavish swore, sword still drawn.
Their steps echoed loud on the stone,
Reassurance they were indeed alone.
Still, when at the end the cold moon shone,
They breathed deep in relief.
Too soon did they think all was clear.
When out the end Tavish did peer,
He saw encamped, with horses near,
The enemy clan of Maia!
He gasped, “This sight augers ill.
With Cass and Maia’s combined will,
My city can hardly hope to stand till
Morning’s light has dawned.”
“Then sneak we must,
And get out we may just–
Else wait here till we turn to dust,”
Brielle said with courage.
The moon’s set aided their escape,
Along with Tavish’s dark cape,
With blessing of stealth, their feet didn’t scrape
Upon the least loose gravel.
Through all the rest of night they went,
Running till their strength was spent,
And when the sun o’er moorland sent
Its rays, they saw not the city.
Along toward noon, when they did see
A stranger standing near a tree,
Exhausted, both knelt to plea
For refuge and his mercy.
“Be you refugees of Cass,
Or friends of Maia, who rode past,
Either way, we’ll keep you fast,
For Callum shelters all.”
At that word, B’elle and T’ish smiled.
Though never one an alliance to build,
Callum’s anger was hardly riled
And they offered haven to all.
Inside the camp, they met the chief,
Who feasted them with bread and beef.
But when his son gave Brielle a leaf
Of oak, Tavish grew wary.
At his first chance, Tavish pulled her aside,
Said, “This means he wants you for his bride.
He’ll kill me unless I sit tongue-tied
And smile while you marry.”
Brielle’s eyes flashed with fierce light.
“Not while I have breath or sight.
We’ll throw them off by faking a fight
And leave when they’re not looking.”
Brielle’s plan was good, said T’ish.
That night, during the evening dish,
They declared it was their mutual wish
To have ne’er known each other.
After, the chief’s son was quite gay
And said that long could Tavish stay,
That he could witness B’elle’s wedding day
And wed a Callum girl himself.
Then with great noise and much ado,
A host of horses entered view.
As closer and closer the herd drew,
They saw that it was Enid.
The Enid lord strode up to kneel
Before Callum chief, and said with zeal,
“Some horses for you! We did just steal
The herd from absent Maia.”
That brought our pair some great delight
To know, whatever Rhian’s plight,
Their enemies would see, come light,
The loss of their best steeds.
With this arrival, the Callums forgot
Brielle and Tavish while they haggled and bought.
So the two made haste and got
Themselves away from Callum.
Into the Annon hills they went.
Up and down the craggy land bent.
For days they caught not sight nor scent
Of other living person.
When Annon’s hilly country grew
At least up to a mountain view,
Then they spotted some people few
Upon the River Ely.
T’was clearly Grainne from their clothes,
Friends of Rhian. Tavish chose
To meet and tell them of their woes
And ask for some assistance.
“To the south Brielle must get.”
The people of Grainne said, “Do not fret!
Though winter comes and we can’t let
Your problem much delay us.
“Take this bark and row it down
The Ely to the great Unnoun.
The path there by the Giant’s Crown
Will lead you close to Keiran.”
So B’elle and T’ish rowed, just the two,
Dry inside the Grainne canoe,
Till next day there was something new:
A snowflake fell in ev’ning.
Now colder each day it did grow
The wind blew ever to and fro
And brought with it a hint of snow
Soon to fall in Grainne.
As winter settled heavy in,
Brielle wished for home and kin
And harder rowed the boat within
The river that grew faster.
The Ely sped up, with white spray,
And Tavish feared they’d lost the way.
“We’ve missed the Unnoun,” he did say
Just as the river dropped.
They tumbled down the waterfall
And barely managed out to crawl.
The last thing Tavish did was call
To Brielle ‘fore he fainted.
Next she new, Brielle found
Herself within the warmest mound
Of blankets made from fur and down,
Watched o’er by unknown faces.
“Where is Tavish?” she croaked, throat dry.|
“Asleep; I shouldn’t wonder why.
We found you frozen, near to die,
And nursed you back, our cousin.”
Then she knew they were with Keir,
Safe from harm, without a fear.
She felt she could have slept a year
Had she not missed Tavish.
A week they stayed with Keir to rest,
Both treated well, as cousin-guests.
Then their saviors thought it best
To guard them to Keir’s border.
They bid their cousins sad good-bye
And wandered into Nallel dry,
Where winter’s storms all pass on by
And people farm all over.
Nallel like Callum had no ties
To Marah clans, so without lies,
Brielle and Tavish crossed it wide,
Unstopped, till they met Drust.
A normal Nallel boy was Drust,
A farmer, always deep in dust.
Yet he, audacious, looked with lust
On Brielle, and he leered.
They could have made it safely still
If Tavish hadn’t acted ill.
He punched at Drust and fought with skill,
And Nallel’s grace was gone.
Drust’s kin joined in to bash T’ish’s head
Until his nose and mouth free bled.
By Brielle’s strength alone they fled
Into the land of Carys.
When T’ish’s swelling had gone down
They came upon a tented town
While night and rainstorm showered down
And cloaked them all in darkness.
“It isn’t safe,” whispered Brielle.
“They’re enemies, they would promptly tell
You’re Rhian, and then they would sell
Us both to Cass for a mare.”
They huddled together to stay dry
And waited till the storm passed by.
Just as morning was drawing nigh,
They caught a strange disturbance.
The moonlight showed some from Crisant
Stealing Carys’s horses, though they were gaunt.
Said Tavish, “We do not want
Carys to think we’re guilty.”
So the young pair took a chance
And warned Carys of Crissant’s defiance–
Thus they broke the Crissant-Rhian alliance
And forged two new with Carys.
Not long in Carys did they stay,
Both eager to be on their way
Back to Keiran, so one more day
Found them near to Bran.
The air grew warmer as they went
And filled with salty ocean scent.
They came upon a river bent
That headed toward the sea.
A stranger sight did they meet there
Than what they had seen anywhere.
The Lorca clan, with mournful air,
Followed a floating skiff.
Brielle and Tavish, much intrigued,
Followed them for half a league.
Inside the skiff lay a girl, pale-cheeked,
Adorned in lace and flowers.
The procession entered into Bran
And met a crowd, who came to stand
At the dock. Said Lorca, “Your man
Has treated our girl poorly.
“He wooed her with poems sweet
And promised her a bridal seat,
Yet it was all but a deceit
And he abandoned her.
“Now see what his betrayal did!
She died with tears upon her lid.
Now, you Brans, we Lorcans bid
You all to make amends.”
A Bran head said, “This is a grief,
But all know their romance was brief.
You demand redress like a thief
To steal from us our land.”
Brielle and Tavish could not tell
Who threw first punch or made first yell,
But all around them, people fell
Into a violent brawl.
While Lorca and Bran’s treaty ended,
Tavish and Brielle descended
To the coast, where they wended
Their way further south.
But winter came even to the coast.
It rained and thundered during most
Days until T’ish grew pale as a ghost
And burned with fever hot.
Now in Avice, alone there,
B’elle nursed T’ish with tender care
Until his skin grew not so fair
And fever left his body.
They thought themselves in Avice still
When they climbed atop a frosted hill
And spied below, adorned with quills,
A faction of Lusine.
“At last some friends!” said Brielle, glad.
Lusine greeted them with shouts and pats.
They gave them steeds and cloaks of plaid
Along with some provisions.
“You’re almost home,” quoth one Lusine.
“Still, winter’s winds are deadly mean
And still between lies Iseline,
A threat to you, not Tavish.”
With caution they rode further south
And, passing other Lusines, bowed.
But Brielle frowned and gnawed her mouth
At thoughts of Iseline.
The night before they reached the land,
Tavish reached for Brielle’s hand.
“Fear not,” he said, “I’ve got a plan
To keep you safe all through.”
Next day, when they met a gang
Of Iselines, who on them sprang,
Tavish to the fighters sang
A tale of some great interest.
“I’m Rhian man, your ally true,”
Said Tavish, “Your actions will not do.
If you harm Brielle, we are through,
Because she is my wife.”
The Iselines all looked in askance
At Brielle, whose heart did dance
Within her chest. She risked a glance
At Tavish, straight beside her.
“It’s true,” she said, and found herself
Bound and led. The whole group delved
Into the woods. Before the king himself,
They made them state their purpose.
The king said, “I will trust them both
For all know that to speak an oath
In Iseline, to say in troth,
Is to enjoin in marriage.”
Iseline let them pass on then,
But nothing was the same as when
Our pair entered: For they had been
Friends and now were spouses.
“I’m sorry, Brielle,” Tavish said.
Said Brielle, “T’ish, lift up your head.
If not for you, I would be dead.
Besides, I do not mind it.”
Whenever they met an Iseline band,
They had to show the king’s command.
The last they met in Iseline’s land
Had this foul news for them:
“Much has changed since you departed.
Now in your way lies Elured.
Of Rhian they are not a friend;
Tavish had best be wary.”
Rhian and Elured had more enmity
Than even ‘tween Keiran and Iseline,
Which was now a great pity
As they couldn’t sneak on by.
After long thought, Brielle said, “T’ish,
We’re truly in a deadly pinch.
Though it is far from being my wish,
I think we must do this:”
She bound his hands with horse’s reigns
And covered all his clothes with stains,
Then Tavish himself took great pains|
To walk like one dejected.
So all Elured who saw them thought
Tavish was a slave she caught.
They laughed and jibed all while she brought
Him safely to her country.
The hills of Keiran had never seemed
More lovely: Brielle thought she dreamed
When past the River Chalsy streamed
And they met the Caran family.
It took more time to track her own,
For all in Keiran freely roam,
But at least she was safely home
With Tavish safe beside her.
Her family wept when they met.
“We heard that Rhian was beset,
But word of you we could not get.
We feared that you had perished.”
Her father looked at Tavish, fierce,
And said, “Is this how you repay years
Of friendship? I’ll feed you to the bears
For risking Brielle so.”
Said Brielle, “Pa, I am his bride
And I’ll stay standing by his side.
Long may this peace abide
With Keiran and with Rhian.”
And so it did: The peace stayed strong.
They united all of Marah ‘fore long,
Which, when Anaxiet came along,
Made them that easy to conquer.
Thus is the tale, known by few,
Of Brielle fair and Tavish true,
The cause of the longest peace Marah knew
Between its fearsome clans.