QUEST OF FIRE FRIDAY: STAR-CROSSED LOVERS

“‘You strolled in out of the rain, and I never saw this—’ she took both his hands in hers and gave them an insistent tug. She waited till his eyes met hers. ‘—coming. I grew up with stories of Tislatna’s Cinaed and Elena, Ordumair II and Alessia, and Anargen and Seren. I never held hope that I would find someone to love.’

Heartbeat quickening, reason grew silent in the shadow of such enormous words. Jason swallowed with some difficulty and said, ‘And you’ve found that someone?’

She smiled half-mischief, half-contentment, ‘Maybe.’



He grinned and laughed… ‘You could have warned me about the spoiler of Anargen and Seren getting a happily-ever-after ending.’

Aria frowned and was suddenly more reserved. ‘Only one of the three couples I mentioned got something like a happy ending. It was the quality of their love, not its length, that I’ve wanted.’” — Quest of Fire: Shadows at Nightfall, Tenth Interlogue

Among the couples Aria mentions, it’s difficult to say which has the most impact on the Quest of Fire series. Certainly Anargen and Seren have the most pages about them (at least for now). I’ve shared precious little about Cinaed and Elena from Tislatna and only hinted at the importance of that civilization (at least for now). But what about Ordumair II and Alessia? They get mentioned in The Gathering Dark and Succession, because of their story’s impact on the plots of the respective novels they’re mentioned in, but the impact of their relationship majorly shaped the history of the Lowlands in the Middle Era. To understand the relationship between Ords and Ecthels, it’s pretty critical to know what took place between this couple:

So, this week I’m sharing a look at some of the history I’ve written up for the dwarfs of Ordumair. It reads a bit like an old historical text (which is intentional), as this is supposed to be a kind of meta-document for the series and the Eachdraidh is referenced in Quest of Fire: Succession as the authoritative history the Ords collected about themselves, so I hope you enjoy this first look at this incredibly important couple, whose relationship helped shape the Middle Era Lowlands for centuries:

Eachdraidh Orderer (Histories of the Ords)

Love and Loss of Ordumair II (Part 1)

Nearly three centuries after the passing of Ordumair I, another leader of the Orderer people was given that name.  The youthful Thane of Ords Ordumair II was every bit the promising ruler his namesake had been centuries earlier.  He was a skilled hunter, speaker, warrior, and caring benefactor of his people.  There were few among the Ords who could speak ill of him and say to the contrary that he was as beloved as any leader they’d had.  It was this good-heartedness and intense will to secure his people’s safety which inevitably would be the means of his enemies engineering his greatest harm. 

When Ordumair the II, or Ordumair the Bear, as he was called for his rugged countenance, unusual size and strength, and unwavering valor in battle; took up the title of Thane, he was shortly faced with a dilemma without precedence in the history of his people.  As the Orderer realm expanded southward for better farmlands and open fields of strong, hale grains, their borders came to intersect regional trade routes. These carried the alluring and new possibility of prosperity never before known by their people. In seizing the opportunity, their lands now came perilously close to adjoining and overtaking the equally prosperous and expansive colonies of Ecthelowall. 

Each of the two domains would soon be in competition for the same lands if measures were not taken to avoid such a catastrophe.   Though many of the elder Ords lamented that war with the Ecthels could not be avoided, Thane Ordumair, being a Knight of Light and descended directly from Ordumair I who had been so sagaciously advised by an Ecthel Knight Errant, was unwilling to consider this proposition.  Instead, he travelled to Ecthelowall’s capital, Ecthalon, to consult the Count of Ecthelowall, Alfred the White. 

Alfred the White, called so for being extraordinarily pale and advanced in years, welcomed the Thane gladly.  Also a Knight, the Count was more than content to speak with such an honest and unwaveringly determined young man as the Thane.  The wise old man also recognized that his years were short, and if he did not act swiftly himself, the decision on how to proceed in the matter would fall to his heirs and he had little peace about that possibility. 

While negotiations stretched on, Thane Ordumair was treated as a guest of the Count, and permitted to reside within his manorial estate in the Castle of Stalwart Timbers.  An ancient keep that had served the very first Count of Ecthelowall who had united the Ecthel peoples many centuries prior.  By Ordumair II’s day, little remained of the hardy wooden motte and bailey structure, but in its place an elaborate and imposing fortress of light grey stonework had been constructed.  Within lay the manorial estate of the Count, and the orchard of Golden Leaves.  This orchard contained a very special tree, whose name is no longer remembered by Ords, Ecthels, or any in the Lowlands.  But their magnificent beneficence to health and nutrition were comparable to those of the cool pool of water Ordumair I discovered that fateful night long before.

While walking amongst these trees, with their vibrant aurous leaves, Thane Ordumair II was smitten by the beauty of a damsel he found seated under one of the trees, reading by herself.  Her auburn hair was like a flame drawing a moth, or perhaps the single beacon of a lighthouse drawing in a ship to port from the loneliness of the sea.  Whatever the simile, for the first time in his life, Ordumair felt the stirring of love in his chest. And moments after, another first befell him as “The Bear’s” courage failed him and he retreated.

Several nights later, Ordumair II attended the wedding for Laird of Albaron to Alessia’s elder sister. Seeing Alessia again, he knew he was inescapably smitten with her.

In accordance with long past Albaron celebratory customs, a contest of boasts was proposed. Each boast if challenged must then be met and Ordumair won by lifting onto his shoulders an ornate oak bench with Alessia and two others on it. His choice of boast and expectation of its challenge weren’t by chance. Suitably impressed, Alessia requested a dance with the Thane.

As they participated in a traditional Ecthel dance, it became obvious Ordumair neither knew the customs of Ecthelowall, nor was he particularly graceful. Amused at his stumbling, Alessia commented to him, “You know, strength of arms isn’t what impresses a maiden of Ecthelowall most. They most cherish wits and wholesome character”

Sensing she was being coy he replied, “Is it maidens of Ecthelowall who so cherish those virtues, or you fair lady?”

Ordumair II’s was not the only one whose heart longed for Alessia’s favor. A cousin and potential heir to Ecthelowall’s throne, Ferderic had his eyes on her. Seeing the spark between the impressive dwarf and feisty lady of court, he instigated another boasting contest. This time one centered on poetic composition.

Her cousin composed an elaborate, beautiful sonnet that Ordumair realizes he cannot compete with and shouldn’t try. When his turn arrived, he merely said, “Without doubt, I have seen only one thing in this world deserving of more praise for its beauty than the words you speak: the fair Lady Alessia, and her sister, in all their graces. I have heard no words so beautiful as yours. Perhaps because I have never partaken anything so beautiful. We scarce have anything to compare in my homeland as yours save the taste our rich mead and majestic mountains. Had I something to compare, then perhaps I could compete with you, noble sir. But I have felt the beauty of my smallness when comparing my might to the High King’s and so am no stranger to the radiance of admitting myself inferior, second, to another. You have well-claimed victory this night, Federic and brought honor to your uncle Count Alfred.”

Alessia responds quietly while others congratulate Federic, “Perhaps the most impressive boast I’ve yet heard. I must visit the country that could craft a heart such as yours.”

               Thus began a courtship worthy of a bard’s finest verse. Alessia’s personality proved every bit as vibrant as her stark green eyes, which only the Ord Bear could match. It took some time for Count Alfred to accept that his youngest daughter, born to him late in life and dearest to him had so soon fallen in love after giving away his elder daughter. But his reluctance to part with his daughter seemed a small thing before the couple’s love. When the Thane petitioned the Count for their betrothal the old Ecthel knew his daughter’s heart had already chosen for him.  He agreed to the marriage, which was carried out immediately. 

The treaty between the two peoples was signed and Ordumair brought his new bride back with him to the blossoming capital city of Ordumair.  As part of Alessia’s dowry, the Count sent several saplings from the Orchard of Golden Leaves to be planted in the Ord capital, so his daughter might always have with her a token of her home. Most pointedly, Alessia gave Ordumair a gift of her own, the Signet of Thanes, as a wedding ring at their marriage ceremony.

All was well until the good and venerable Alfred the White passed away.  In his place, his nephew Ferderic became Count and with this came great tragedy.

UP NEXT WEEK: WHAT’S IN A NAME?

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