At long – long – last! Ladies and gentlemen, the Blue House Melodramatic Society is pleased to present, for your amusement, the missing fairytale, the glorious sort-of Holmes spoof, the horrifying Saalisan legend, the very long awaited…
‘KURRA OF THE THREEBS!!
*takes bow* Thank you, very kind. Grace, I’m sorry, but I had to borrow Baral Favain just terribly briefly, I missed him dreadfully. So you shall have this story too.
And I have now officially survived my first semester of Real School, so I’m rather pleased with myself just now.
Once upon many, many years ago, there was a great earl, a cousin of the king, named Tinari Threeb. Now, Tinari Threeb had been the earl from the night of his birth, for the Threeb family had kept a terrible secret for twelve generations. It was said that when the twentieth earl, Rexral Threeb, had met the snake-god T’Xann in the woods, he had not recognized him, and had lunged at him with his hunting spear. It was said that this annoyed the god so much he placed a curse on the Threeb line for twelve thousand years. The curse ran thus: that whenever the heir, the first son of a first son, was born, on that very night an inexorable beast, an enormous txakurra with glowing orange eyes, would rise from the ground to devour the present earl and any who were with him. Twelve earls of the Threeb line, and a hundred or more of servants, had perished in this way, but the manner of their deaths was concealed from the world.
The land of that place was good, and within the bounds of the Threeb estate, it was as rich as cream and as dark as a moonless sky. In the soil of the edge between forest and plains, beyond the boundary of the estate, the free peasant farmers planted their crops and their homesteads. One of these farmers had a daughter, whose beauty had been told of from the goblin dens in the far north to the king’s throne-room in the great city of Athemyx. The king had heard tell of this girl, and sent messengers bidding his cousin ride out and see her, to discover if the rumors had any truth to them. For, if it proved true that the girl was as lovely as the day and sweeter than honey, the king meant to make her his eighth wife.
When Tinari Threeb sent word back to court, he reported that the girl Kettetri Saxlar, though a comely maiden enough for the plains, was by no means suited for the coronet of a minor royal wife. A foreigner – some said an enchanter – had once lived in the forests nearby, when Kettetri Saxlar was a baby, and his story had become entwined with her family’s, so that they were generally distrusted. At this information the king shrugged, and was content to resume his chasing after the sisters and daughters of the courtiers.
Yet for many months afterward, every day or two, Tinari Threeb or one of his servants came to the grey stone gates of the farmhouse wherein Kettetri Saxlar lived (but no further), and each time they bore gifts. A riyo-tree sapling that bore rare and prized golden blossoms; a length of shimmering grass-green silk; a necklace of emeralds and diamonds; many books of poetry, richly illustrated and bound in gold-stamped leather; and a fine white mare riding-beast; all these were brought for Kettetri Saxlar’s pleasure. For while the earl had told his cousin the king only that which was true regarding the girl, he himself had loved her to the point of worship from the moment he first saw her. Tinari Threeb was at that time entirely unmarried, and his widowed mother spent her days happily engaged in seeking a suitable wife for him.
Therefore the dowager Countess Threeb was justifiably astonished when her son rode out extremely early one morning, after some months of setting out only tolerably early. On this morning, he left accompanied by ten excellent riding-beasts from his stable and a chest of gold pieces, for Kettetri Saxlar’s father, and a delicate silver ring set with an amethyst, which was considered the most precious of all gems, for Kettetri Saxlar herself. Tinari Threeb returned in company with Kettetri Saxlar, who rode the white beast he had given her, and held in her newly beringed hands a golden riyo-tree cutting in a pot.
After pursuing such an unorthodox courtship, and marrying such an unorthodox bride, and then flatly refusing to take other wives, Tinari Threeb was ostracized from polite society. He did not mind, however, and lived happily with Kettetri Saxlar on his estate, planting avenues of golden riyo trees, and raising their children in peace and quiet, without the interference of nursemaids or governesses. (Tinari Threeb’s mother gave up in disgust after the birth of the third daughter, and went to live with her married brother in the great city.)
Tinari Threeb persisted in his various eccentricities. He did not attend his cousin the king at court. He stood on less companionable terms with great men of his own degree than with Kettetri Saxlar’s older brother, Olik Petir the farmer, who was said to have been the foreign wizard’s apprentice. When riding out across his estates with his seneschal, Tinari Threeb did not pay his wife the usual polite farewell of kissing his fingertips and touching them to her mouth. Instead, he had her ride with him as an equal, and listened seriously to her suggestions. Unusual above all, he did not fret that he had no son to succeed him as Earl Threeb, but devoted himself to his daughters, declaring himself perfectly satisfied with whatever his wife cared to give him, and further, that a daughter of Kettetri Saxlar’s was fitter to hold title than any boy in the realm. And for twelve years, Tinari Threeb and Kettetri Saxlar were radiantly happy.
However, it happened that Kettetri Saxlar was with child for a fourth time, and that Tinari Threeb, in fear and trembling, at last told his wife all he knew of the family curse.
“We have been lucky so far. But I dare not hope for yet another daughter. You have made me the happiest man in the kingdom, and if the child is a boy and the beast takes me, I shall be at peace with my fate.”
At this, Kettetri Saxlar became quiet and withdrawn. She wrote sundry letters: one was to Tinari Threeb’s mother in the city, begging to be told what Tinari Threeb had said was not true. The reply came within a week, confirming everything. Then Kettetri Saxlar wrote another letter, which she did not show to her husband. The letter she entrusted to one of the men Tinari Threeb had assigned to her personal service, and sent him away to deliver it – though she told nobody else to whom it was addressed. Tinari Threeb became suspicious, and insisted upon reading all of his wife’s letters, and appointed servants to watch her. Despite all this, Kettetri Saxlar remained steadfast, spending every moment with Tinari Threeb that she could.
Soon she could no longer ride out across the estate with him, and took to spending her time in the high turrets of the great house, gazing out over the eastern plains from sunrise until nightfall.
When the time came for the child to be born, Tinari Threeb was loth to leave Kettetri Saxlar’s side, and held her in his arms, and kissed her many times, not upon her hands as was decorous, but upon her cheeks and forehead and lips, and he spoke many tender words to her. Presently, however, in the middle of the afternoon, he left his wife’s chambers, and went out of the house, to a place at the end of the avenue of golden riyo trees, where there was a gate giving onto the plains. And he had the torches along the garden wall lit, and ordered that nobody, not man, woman, nor child, was to go within ten chains of the gate until the dawn came.
“For I will have nobody else die for me,” quoth Tinari Threeb.
The child, a boy, was born at the stroke of midnight. Kettetri Saxlar, though still weak, rose and dressed herself; then, kissing her newborn son and leaving him, still unnamed, in the care of her eldest daughter, she went out into the garden, and walked out to the gate where Tinari Threeb stood.
“My lord, you have a son,” said she. “I am your wife. I have loved you and lived with you these twelve years. If you are marked to die, then let me die, as I have lived, at your side.” And Tinari Threeb and Kettetri Saxlar stood together in the avenue of golden riyo trees, all grown from shoots of that first tree which he had given her and she had brought to their house, and waited, hand in hand, for whatever might come.
Some hours before dawn, there was a rustling sound from beyond the wall, and Kettetri Saxlar’s grip on her husband’s hand grew tighter. The garden gate flew open, and they could see out across the moonlit expanse of the plains, to the forest at the edge of the estate. Across the plain, there came a dark shadow, set with two brilliant orange lights, moving fast toward the gate, and Tinari Threeb heard a sound as of galloping feet and a beast’s heavy panting.
“Kettetri Saxlar, I love you,” he said, and stepped forward with her out of the gateway. At that instant, another light appeared, beyond the shadow of the beast, glittering green. Tinari Threeb saw that the new light approached faster than the old one did, and he became more afraid, though he would not show it.
As the terrible txakurra drew nearer, the green light raised higher for an instant, before plummeting suddenly to the ground. At once, the glow of the beast’s eyes disappeared. Darting for a moment back into the garden, Kettetri Saxlar fetched a torch, and brought it back, illuminating the strange scene on the plains with flickering, uncertain firelight.
The black bulk of the gigantic txakurra lay lifeless on the grass, and over it stooped a tall man, holding its severed head in one hand, and a silver war-sword with a green gem in the pommel in the other. Black blood ran smoking down the blade of the sword, and dripped into the grass. As Kettetri Saxlar raised the torch higher, the man stood, and the mail-shirt he wore under his crimson cloak caught the light, gleaming as silvery-pure as his shoulder-long hair.
“Baral Favain!” cried Kettetri Saxlar, and, thrusting the torch into Tinari Threeb’s hand, ran to the warrior. “I thought you’d never come!” Dropping the ‘kurra’s head, he put his arm around her and embraced her as a father embraces his daughter.
“Baral Favain in the flesh. Didst thou think I could stay away when I had thy message that thou wast in danger, Kettetri Saxlar?”
“Who – what – how?” stammered Tinari Threeb. “The txakurra –” As he spoke, the dead beast shimmered, and faded away, leaving only empty air in its place.
“This is my friend Baral Favain,” Kettetri Saxlar told him. “Baral Favain, this is my husband, Tinari Threeb. Have you come back for good?”
“Ay – and I pray not for ill. Now thou art safe, I do as I have always done – I go. Tonight I stay with thy father, and tomorrow return to find my house in the hills.”
“Goodnight, Baral Favain. I hope I shall see you often now.”
“Goodnight, my lady Kettetri Saxlar. Goodnight, my lord Threeb. Pray give my regards to thy lovely daughters and thy son.”
As the Shendi prince turned away and began to walk back across the plains, Kettetri Saxlar turned to her husband, a look of unusual determination upon her beautiful face.
“We will name our son Favain.” In later years, Favain Threeb of the foreign name became earl in his turn, and had many children, but the ‘kurra of the Threebs was never seen or heard of ever again.