Contest with the king
Not including the release of the mages’ bindings; Ailin will write that.
The tribes had all sent their representatives back to the king’s palace, or rather, the fields beyond it. A few hundred Khas, men and women were present. The challenge was to come off in the afternoon, start with story-telling, continue with wrestling, end with drinking!
And not just the Khas were there: the Gods themselves were present, all of them!
The king, as was his prerogative, I guess, started. His tale was basically a long and rambling tale of how he had become king of all Khas. The only moments when he was at all interesting, was when he was, in some way, using his mother’s power! I could see the power flowing from her to him.
Cheating! That’s what I called it, and I brought it to the attention of the judge, our friend Naran Bataar. He thought that the King might not even be aware he was doing it! His mother, Salkhiya, at any rate, had no idea her son was using her.
I tried to stop it, but that didn’t work — not very well, even though it confused the king when I put a squeeze on it! But when Ailin made Salkhiya aware of her link, she stopped it herself!
In any case, with or without help, Batukhan simply stood no chance against Sepideh. She strode to the front and began telling the tale of Khongor Dzol, when she revealed the ancient armour, she held everyone spell-bound!
First round for us, no doubt about that.
Then it was Batulze’s turn. She was about as large as the King, but probably weighed a lot less. And the King had been fighting all his life. At first, she seemed to actually get the better of the king, who no doubt was surprised to fight with a woman for the first time of his life.
But he got used to that soon enough and managed to push Batulze to the ground. He won, his round, but I could see people looking at each other and scratching their chins. After all, she had managed to almost thrown him down once, and at one point it seemed to be anyone’s fight! Not so shabby for a woman who had been a slave in the iron mines for months and who had only started training two days earlier.
The final contest was, of course, Ailin drinking against the king. The Khas had made quite something out of it. Two rows of cups stood waiting, every next cup bigger than the previous one. The trick here was that before drinking (in one go!) the king and Ailin had to make a boast, tell a story or sing…
Boast followed on boast, and while I sometimes wished I could whisper something in Ailin’s ear with my mind, that would have been cheating, and besides, she held her side up, better than the king! Half way through the river of kumiss, he merely began to parrot her, and before Ailin started to look really strained (apart from in the bladder department), the King was incapably drunk.
And when he passed out, the women had won the challenge! Wonderful, strong, determined, trained-on-Síthi-wine Ailin! She had outdrunk the King of the Khas with ease — although the very next day she did suffer a bit from a bout of lassitude…
Peace, equal rights for women and men and no more children burned to satisfy the power-lust of the Khas mages — we were almost there.
But not completely. While it was clear that we had won, it appeared not clear what we had won! Naran Bataar argued that this had only been about the women’s right to be equal to any Khas man!
But I was having none of that, and started arguing my case with Naran Bataar. And this time the gods were with us, all of them, even the Khas Nameless.
And yes, he had never wanted to take his power from gifted children — he knew his daughter was gifted and was shocked when I said so in public. That was wrong of me, but I had not realized. Stupid Ferin! But I promised Naran that I would protect his daughter from the king. If he were still king the next morning!
We discussed all these things with all the chiefs and many others all through the night. I think we did reform the Khas nation that night and carried out the task the gods had set us — and I am full of confidence that this will be a turning point in the history of their nation.
The next morning, the King still had not woken up! He was not dead, just asleep, but we were busy, very busy. Soon, we would take to the road again, or rather, travel through the plains to go home, first to our tribe’s village, then to Solay!
Naran’s daughter and the king’s son were going to travel with us and present themselves at our princess Ayneth’s court, and then travel on to Valdyas. The hunting chief was still dithering whether he would come with us or not.