The Summer Tree

Free The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Authors: Guy Gavriel Kay
from by his father’s throne, “whatever the worth of what you say, surely this is not the time to say it. Lovely as you are, you are marring a festival with your wrangling. And we seem to have another guest waiting to be greeted.” Stepping lightly from the dais, he walked past all of them, down to the end of the hall, where, Kim saw as she turned to watch, there stood another woman, this one white-haired with age and leaning on a gnarled staff before the great doors of Ailell’s hall.
    “Be welcome, Ysanne,” said the Prince, a deep courtesy in his tone. “It is long since you have graced our court.” But Kim, hearing the name spoken, seeing the frail figure standing there, felt something touch her then, like a finger on the heart.
    A current of sound had begun to ripple through the gathered courtiers, and those lining the spaces between the pillars were crowding backwards in fear. But the murmur was only faint background for Kim now, because all her senses were locked onto the seamed, wizened figure walking carefully towards the throne on the arm of the young Prince.
    “Ysanne, you should not be here.” Ailell, surprisingly, had risen to speak, and it could be seen that, even stooped with years, he was the tallest man in the room.
    “True enough,” the old woman agreed placidly, coming to a halt before him. Her voice was gentle as Jaelle’s had been harsh. The red-haired Priestess was gazing at her with a bitter contempt.
    “Then why?” Ailell asked softly.
    “Fifty years on this throne merits a journey to pay homage,” Ysanne replied. “Is there anyone else here besides Metran and perhaps Loren who well recalls the day you were crowned? I came to wish you bright weaving, Ailell. And for two other things.”
    “Which are?” It was Loren who asked.
    “First, to see your travellers,” Ysanne replied, and turned to face Paul Schafer.
    His responding gesture was brutally abrupt. Throwing a hand in front of his eyes, Schafer cried out, “No! No searching!”
    Ysanne raised her eyebrows. She glanced at Loren, then turned back to Paul. “I see,” she said. “Fear not, then, I never use the searching—I don’t need it.” The whispering in the hall rose again, for the words had carried.
    Paul’s arm came down slowly. He met the old woman’s gaze steadily then, his own head held high—and strangely, it was Ysanne who broke the stare.
    And then it was, then it was, that she turned, past Jennifer and Kevin, ignoring the rigid figure of Jaelle, and for the first time saw Kimberly. Grey eyes met grey before the carven throne under the high windows of Delevan. “Ah!” cried the old womanthen on a sharply taken breath. And in the softest thread of a whisper added, after a moment, “I have awaited you for so long now, my dear.”
    And only Kim herself had seen the spasm of fear that had crossed Ysanne’s face before she spoke those quiet words like a benediction.
    “How?” Kim managed to stammer. “What do you mean?”
    Ysanne smiled. “I am a Seer. The dreamer of the dream.” And somehow, Kim knew what that meant, and there were sudden, bright tears in her eyes.
    “Come to me,” the Seer whispered. “Loren will tell you how.” She turned then, and curtsied low before the tall King of Brennin. “Fare kindly, Ailell,” she said to him. “The other thing I have come to do is say goodbye. I shall not return, and we shall not meet again, you and I, on this side of the Night.” She paused. “I have loved you. Carry that.”
    “Ysanne—” the King cried.
    But she had turned. And leaning on her staff, she walked, alone this time, the length of the stunned, brilliant hall and out the double doors into the sunlight.

    That night, very late, Paul Schafer was summoned to play ta’bael with the High King of Brennin.
    The escort was a guard he didn’t know and, walking behind him down shadowy corridors, Paul was inwardly grateful for the silent presence of Coll, who he knew was following them.

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