I am unreasonably fond of myths and legends. So much so that, from time to time, I invent such tales and insert them into stories. In “The Seventh Friend” the title refers to an inn and the regiments that rise from that inn. The name was chosen by Cain Arbak, the Innkeeper General, who chose the name because of this tale, of which he, in his turn, was quite fond…
I have left the translators note intact.
An extract from “The Seventh Tale of Karim”
“…and Karim wandered in the woods of Lillan, seeking proof by arms, and glory in the service of his king because the woods were claimed both by the Sillish Emperor and by his king. He rode upon his warhorse, Perran, his blade at his side and his shield upon the pommel.
After a while he came across a Sillish Warrior riding in the woods upon a great, dark horse. The Sillish Warrior had a bow, and he fitted an arrow to the string and loosed it at Karim’s heart, but Karim was swift and sure, and caught the arrow on his shield. Then Karim and the Sillish Warrior drew their blades and saluted each other, and rode at each other and gave battle. For many hours they traded blows in the woods until the sun was due to set, and the Sillish Warrior, seeing this, raised his shield in parley, and the two stopped fighting.
“The sun bids us cease our battle,” The Sillish Warrior said. “But, if you are agreeable, we will meet here again at sunrise and continue as before.”
Karim agreed to meet the Sillish Warrior at dawn, and made camp a short way from their place of battle, and in the night he wondered at the strength of the Sillish Warrior who had matched him blow for blow through the latter half of the day, and rode so fair, and spoke so well to the point.
At dawn he mounted again upon Perran and rode to the place of battle, and from a long way off he saw the Sillish Warrior also approaching. They saluted one another as on the previous day, and then began their battle anew.
All morning the two men fought, and yet neither could land a blow upon the other’s body. With the sun high in the sky and the heat of the day upon them Karim raised his shield in parley and the Sillish Warrior put up his blade.
“It grows hot, and I hunger and thirst,” Karim said. “Will you sit with me in the shade and share my bread and water until the day’s fury abates?”
“I will,” the Sillish Warrior said.
So they sat in the shade of a great tree and shared the food that Karim had brought with him, and they talked of courtly matters, and of the love that they had for their own lands. The Sillish Warrior declared that nothing could compare with the fresh wind off the eastern sea on a summer morning when all the wild flowers were in bloom along the cliffs, and Karim declared that there was no pleasure as great as walking in the woods of his own land when spring was resurrecting the world from winter’s spell and life burst forth from all things.
When the heat of the day abated, they took once again to their mounts and Karim urged Perran forwards. But the horse put his hoof into a rut concealed beneath the leaves and Karim was thrown from his saddle and struck a tree, and went into darkness.
When Karim awoke, he found himself resting upon a comfortable bed of leaves made with the Sillish Warrior’s cloak. His sword lay by his right hand, and a fresh bandage nursed the wound on his head where he had struck the tree. He arose from the bed, though the pain of his injury was great, and found the Sillish Warrior seated by a fire, preparing food.
They shared a meal, and afterwards Karim asked the Sillish Warrior why he had not slain him, for according to the rules of combat there was no reason he should have spared his life.
“In all the world there is but one warrior who could withstand my blade as long as you. You Are Karim of the Long Arm, Prince of Swords, and you were defeated by time and chance, as may happen to any man, but I have a fondness for tales, and the Tale of Karim deserves a better ending that this.”
“Will you tell me your name?” Karim asked.
The Sillish Warrior declined, but gave no reason. He insisted that they remain in their camp until Karim was quite recovered from his wound, and so they stayed for seven days, and each day the Sillish Warrior would leave the camp in the morning and return in the evening with food sufficient for the day. In the evenings they talked, and argued many fine points of philosophy, and shared many tales of battle, and of the hunt, and so they grew to know each other well.
On the eighth day Karim was well again, and they took up their swords and returned to their place of battle where they stood opposite each other, but did not draw their blades.
“I regret that you must slay me,” Karim said. “For though I do not know your name I have grown to love you as a brother, and yet my honour does not permit me to cede the woods of Lillan to a Sillish blade as long as I live. I have so sworn to my king.”
The Sillish Warrior drew his blade, but did not strike at Karim. Instead he threw it to the ground.
“Neither can I kill you, Karim Prince of Swords. Your life is worth more to me than ten such woods, and so hear me. I am indeed the Emperor of All Silla, the mighty Perandor, sometimes called the King of Swords, and I renounce my claim to the woods of Lillan in your favour. Go to your king and tell him your heart and not your sword has won this victory. You are forever welcome in my court, and I shall hold the bond between us sacred for as long as I live. No Sillish blade shall ever be raised against you.”
Karim knelt before the emperor, and was raised up a lord of the Empire of Silla, and he returned to his king and told him the tale, and the king was amazed and greatly pleased, and in his wisdom he raised Karim up lord of all the lands along the borders between Silla and the kingdom, and Karim ruled them wisely for all the years of his life.
For the rest of his days he was a frequent visitor to the Emperor, and the Emperor often hunted with Karim in the woods of Lillan, and they were friends until the last days of the Emperor Perandor, and there was no more war between Silla and the Kingdom, but instead a spirit of brotherhood that lived one thousand years.
It is generally recognized that Silla occupied what is now mostly the Great Plain, and the Kingdom covered the area that is now Afael and most of Avilian. These ancient tales were penned to illustrate the perfect virtues of the noble classes, and to inspire behavior of the best kind among the powerful. It cannot be judged how well they succeeded, but there is much to be learned from the fact that they have come down to us by many routes, in many languages, over two thousand years and more.
In each tale Karim wins a friend by the virtue of his nobility, his kindness, his force of arms, or some other noble attribute. The whole is a handbook on morality. We can be fairly sure that both Karim and Perandor actually existed, but as to their character, who can tell? The volume was composed many years after the death of both.
From “The Ten Tales of Karim” Author unknown.
A Translation by the Learned Scholar Jorril Marras
Sage advisor to the Royal Court of Berash.