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Authors: Jo Walton

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The King's Peace

BOOK: The King's Peace
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"The people, the politics the details of warfare and daily life all ring as true as the steel

, sword the heroine wields so doughtily. This is much more than a retooling of the Matter of Britain: It is a fully imagined, living, magical world."

—Delia Sherman

The King's Peace

Sulien ap Gwien was seventeen when the Jarnish raiders came. Had she been armed when they found her, she could have taken them all. As it was, it took six of them to subdue her. She will never forgive them.

Thus begins her story—a story that takes her back to her family, with its ancient ties to the Vincan empire that once ruled in Tir Tanagiri, and forward to Caer Tanaga, where the greatest man of his time, King Urdo, struggles to bind together the squabbling nobles and petty princes into a unified force that will drive out the barbarian invader and restore the King's Peace.

King Urdo will change Sulien's life. She will see him for what he is: the greatest hope the country has. And he will see her for what she is: the greatest warrior of her day.

Together they will fight and suffer for an age of the world, for the things that the world always needs and which never last.

Ringing with the clash of arms and the songs of its people, rich with high magic and everyday.


King's Peace begins an epic of great deeds and down-to-earth people, told in language with the strength and flexibility of sharpened steel.

An epic of real heroism, real loyalty, and real love of country.

"The Kings Peace beautifully and thought-provokingly tells a story set in a world and a history almost like ours, but different enough to be in itself a kind of elvenland. It's good to know that there will be more."

—Poul Anderson

Walton writes with an authenticity that never loses heart, a rare combination in a genre where we are so often offered one or the other.

The King's Peace is proof that no matter how mined out a subject may seem, a dedicated writer can dig down to a true vein of legend and hammer out gold."

—Robin Hobb

"Head and shoulders and sword-arm above most fantasy... It reads like a lost memoir from the Dark Age of a subtly different history, tough and unsentimental and all the more touching for that."

—Ken MacLeod

"A rich immediacy that calls to mind the best of Thomas Malory and Rudyard Kipling...

The King's Peace is the novel that

The Mists of Avalon should have been."

Page 1

—Debra Doyle






This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.


Copyright © 2000 by Jo Walton

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

This book is printed on acid-free paper. Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden A Tor Book

Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC 175 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10010

Tor is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Walton, Jo.

The king's peace /Jo Walton.—1st ed.

p. cm.

"A Tom Doherty Associates book."

ISBN 0-312-87229-1 (alk. paper)

1. Women soldiers—Fiction. I. Title.

PR6073.A448 K56 2000

823'92—k21 00-031682



First Edition: October 2000

Printed in the United States of America



Dedication, Thanks, and Notes

1: The King's Peace

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Page 2
2: The King's Law

23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42


Gr aci ou s as gif t gi ve n ni ne ni gh ts lat er w he n wo rd s ca m e ba ck ch an ge d for ke ep in g.




we fte d, w ho wa rp ed it?

Re lis h thi s, Ri dd ler

, th y ow n I

gi ve th ee.

This book is for the four people who lived with the story as it was being written, who caught errors, made suggestions, and helped in their different ways to shape it as it grew.

Sasha Walton, my son the Jarnish partisan, for taking it for granted and being insistent.

Emmet O'Brien, for love, help, delight, and support all the time I was writing it. Hrolfr F.

Gertsen-Briand, my military adviser, for the hard work on detail he put into it, for showing me how to do Caer Lind, and most especially for sharing the dream and showing me there's more than one way of not being able to have it. Graydon, my nonunion muse, without whom there would not only not be this but there would not be anything; for always seeing clearly what was wrong and for being so awfully good at being himself.

This book also gained inestimably by being read in manuscript by Janet Kegg, my fairy godmother, my aunt, Mary Lace, and Michael Grant.

I'd also like to thank Pamela Dean for inspiration, wise advice, reassurance, and conversation about writing; Mary Lace for driving me to Oxford and Caerleon and other helpful places; Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, for taking notice of it; and Jez Green, Andrew
Page 3

Morris, Ken Walton, Helen Marsden, Steve Miller, Bil Bas, and Art Questor for the inspiration that came out of a game.

For those to whom pronunciation of names is important, they have been rendered as easy for an English speaker as possible. C and G are always hard (as in cat, gold), and all letters should be pronounced as read. Doubtful vowels are more likely to be long than otherwise.

Ch is hard (as in Bach) except in Malmish names.

This is not our world, and this is not history. Anyone seeking information on the history of Britain in the early Sixth Century would probably do well to start with John Morris'

The Age of Arthur, not an infallible book but a very readable one. From there I'd highly recommend the wonderfully illuminating recent work of K. M. Dark, especially Civitas to Kingdom and

External Contacts.

As far as primary sources go, many of them are collected together in Coe and Young's The Celtic Sources for the Arthurian Legend, the most useful of the many useful volumes Llanerch Press have made available in recent years. For technology I'd highly recommend Gies and Gies's

Cathedral, Forge and


and for religion Fletcher's wonderfully thorough

The Conversion of Europe.

I'd like to express my gratitude to the staff of Sketty library for their unfailing cheerfulness in ordering me in great piles of strange volumes from the ends of the Earth. I couldn't have managed without them either.

"I will have it so that though King, son, and grandson were all slain in one day, still the King's Peace should hold over all England! What is a man that his mere death must upheave a people! We must have the Law."

— Rudyard Kipling, Rewards and Fairies


"If I heed your words that is all that I shall ever have.

If I have no sword where then shall I seek peace?

"A sword might win a Peace's time from tumult;

no peace have the hungry, and so the Peace is made from the work of gathered days the many's many choices."

— Graydon Saunders and Jo Walton, from

Theodwyn's Rede


What it is to be old is to remember things that nobody else alive can remember. I always say that when people ask me about my remarkable long life. Now they can hear me when I say it. Now, when I am ninety-three and remember so many things that are to them nothing but bright legends long ago and far away. I do not tell them that I said that first when I was seventeen, and felt it too. Although only one person heard it then, of all the people I said it to.

Nevertheless, it was as true then as it is today. So I have been old by my own terms since I was seventeen, although that seventeen-year-old who had my name seems very young to me now when I remember her.

Yet now that I am fit for little more than telling stories to the children it occurs to me that my memories will be lost if I do not see them passed on. All of them are things that nobody alive but I remembers. Some of them are things that are truly passing into legend. In the
Page 4

legend there is no room for me. I was not important to the story they tell.

My story has no drama; a land defended, vows unbroken, faith upheld. That is not the stuff of legend. I am nothing but an old woman, even if I am still lord of these few acres of land. Lord Sullen they call me still in courtesy, but I could not defend my people now. It is my great-nephew's word that counts in the king's council, and that is as it should be. My king is dead.

Dead, long ago.

So long ago. Too long ago. I wrote those words, "my king is dead," and my pen stopped in my hand and I was lost again in dream. Fifty years and five it is, since Urdo fell, and yet my memories of him are still very clear. The years I rode as his armiger shine brightest of all the memories of my long life. Yet to the children I tell stories in the autumn sunlight they seem like legends of another age. I suppose they are. The world has changed, and changed again. The king my great-nephew serves now is more Jarn than Tanagan. He follows the White God. The ways of the Jarnsmen are mingling with our ways, and the customs and languages of the two people are becoming one. This was our dream of course, but I do not think we imagined how the world would be when that dream came true.

Now I shall write down my memories, but I do not know who will read them. Nobody can read these days but the priests of the White God and those they teach. My mother was old-fashioned even in her own day in insisting that all her children could read and write. She was born in the days when the Vincans still ruled. When I was a child she was much given to praising the virtues of Civilization and Peace, two things the Vincans brought to our island and which my lord Urdo fought to restore. Which he did restore.

The Peace we built in Tir Tanagiri lasted, despite everything. This is still our land, and I am still lord of these few families, these little fields. My people come and go in peace. The flocks safely graze.

So I do not write for my great-nephew and his friends, or for the children of the estate.

These days lords' children learn honor and farmers' children learn the land; none of them can read. I do not write for the priests. I have been a worshiper of the Radiant Sun all my days, and although I respect what my king did in accepting the White God into our land I have small liking for the priests and their ways. I do not write for the living who care too much and not enough, or for the dead who may care but who cannot reach me. I shall write for any in the future who care about us, our little kingdom, and our ways. I shall write small, in neither the harsh Jarnish tongue nor the old language of the farmers which was my own first language. I have lived to see those languages change, and I do not think that change is over yet. I shall write in the clear Vincan I learned from my parents. It is most likely to last without changing, and it is, after all, my mother always told me, the language of literature.

When I have finished I shall seal my writing in clay and set on it the holy seals of the Sun in Splendor, Lord of Light, and of the Shield-Bearer, Lady of Wisdom. Then I shall cast it into their protection for those to find who may. If you are reading these words then I pray that these two gods have guided you to them. Further, I pray that the names of those you read about in these pages will not, even after all that span of time, be entirely forgotten. I know he would have freely given all his wordfame to make the Peace. All the same, there is a wistful hope in me that if there is any justice, my king's name will still be a trumpet blast in a thousand years.


The King's Peace


First came the Tanagans, hop along, hop along, then came the Vincans, dance along, dance
Page 5

along then came the Jarnsmen, run along, run along the gold-headed Jarnsmen to chase you all home!

— Children's step game

If I had been armed on horseback, I could have taken them all out. Even afoot I could have made a good showing with a sword. Hand to hand I think I could have given one of them a fair match, for all they were full-grown men and I, at seventeen, had not quite all my woman's growth. I was already veteran often years' training and one brief battle against raiders the year before. I was strong, not just strong for a woman but strong by any measure. These were but common Jarnish ship-raiders, all but untrained in land fighting like most of their kind. They had not spent their childhoods as I had, lifting weights and swinging staves to develop their strength and speed. But here I was alone and unarmed, and there were six of them.

BOOK: The King's Peace
3.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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