Dark Lord of Kismera (cont’d)

Kismera

After being served roasted chicken and some exotic looking vegetable following the soup, he asked her, “What sort of things do you trade?”

She paused before a bite. “We have excellent gold and silversmiths who make jewelry, some very fine.”

For the first time she seemed inclined to engage in a more relaxed conversation with him. “Please, go on,” he offered, in encouragement. “You appear to have a considerable amount of land. Is it as productive as it seems?”

She nodded. “To the north and east of us there is fertile farmland. To the southeast there is fertile land as well, and some is farmed, but that is where the majority of our cattle and pigs are raised.” She made a directional motion with her fork. “If you continue in that direction, you will come to the seaside city of Trevess. Trevess is not Clan owned. It is an independent city. There are salt beds there, and of course, there is fishing. It is a large port and many other lands trade there as well.”

“You go there often, I take it,” Drace asked, pleased that she seemed willing to speak of other things besides training and war.

“I was to go there for Ysgol but was unable to attend. Cearan spent three turnings of spring there, however.”

Drace noted the odd expression she wore…almost sorrowful. Although he understood her accent, he did not understand the word she had used. “What is Ysgol?”

“Ysgol is a place of higher learning. We have a basic education available to all children here. Cearan and I had a teacher of other tongues and higher mathematics and so on in our youth. Ysgols are in the cities, and mostly for the upper class and wealthy of all races of people. It is the highest of learning and philosophies.”

“Why did you not attend the school there?” Drace asked.

Ki frowned. “I did not have the opportunity as I had responsibilities here that prevented it.” Her expression closed that particular subject.

“You came in from the east.” She seemed willing to continue talking with him as they ate, but she had changed the subject. “That land we keep for hunting land for ourselves and for Nimbus. That is his right as guardian of all Lion-kin lands.”

She laid a hand on his, but then pulled back, and gave her plate her attention. “I see a change in you. It pleases me.” She glanced up at him through
her lashes.

He made a questioning gesture with his hand then rubbed his clean-shaven
chin. “What I would like to know is how you did the whole lion illusion.”

She straightened and stared at him. “You did see a lion. I was the lioness.”

“Duh,” Drace sneered.

She saw he wanted a better explanation. Ki glanced over at her brother to her right then back to Drace. Cearan was deep in conversation with a man Drace recognized as So Lar, who was also a Horse Master. He was an older man whose long hair was mostly gray. He had the same distinctive features as other members of the Clan Lionblade. He was Cearan’s second-in-command in the care and training of the horses. Drace had spoken with him several times in the last few weeks, and genuinely liked the older man.

“I have mentioned to you that Cearan and I are Lion-kin, yes?” she remarked. At Drace’s nod she continued, idly toying with the food on her plate with her fork. “Those of our clan that are Lion-kin have the ability to become the lion as they wish; shape shift, if you will. They have the natural weapons of the lion: claw, fang, speed, strength, and so on. There are others among us here that are of other clans. You have seen Ja Din and Oran during your stay here at Oralia. They are of the panther clan.”

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