Befre and Graefel

A Triad Outtake

From chapter 4, in Befre’s scene. Her musing on her difficult relationship with her brother Graefel from childhood, what it felt like to be cast in a triad and have a triad dissolved.

So very long ago that Graefel, inconceivably older when he was six and she was three, had shown a light and been taken to prentice in Iandel, leaving her bereft, wailing for her brother. So very long ago that she had shown a light in turn, and their parents had moved their craftery to Iandel so they could all be together again. So very long ago that he had taken the triskele, when he was two nineyears and she was nine-and-six, and the runner had come, in his nine-colored cloak, to summon him to serve the Ennead with his bright light. Again she was left bereft, not only of a beloved brother but this time of the wordsmith she’d expected to triad.

She next saw him a year later, dressed in reckoner’s black, passing through with his reckoner cohorts on their way to join the proxies in the field. He’d barely acknowledged her, a lowly prentice. I’ll join him, she had thought. As reckoners we won’t be able to triad, but I’ll join him, when I’m called, and we can travel the world together.

No call had come. She’d taken her triskele, and gone on her journeying, and her light was never reckoned bright enough to serve that Ennead. But she found she loved the road. She loved it with a wild desire, a sort of ache that was relieved only when she was on the move, seeing new things, meeting new folk, discovering new aspects of her craft. When a reckoner waylaid her one day, she feared it was the call come after all, that they would take her to that holding and make a warder of her and lock her up inside black rock and she would never see the road again. She’d almost fled. But it was only a message from her brother to come home. Now fearing a death in the family, she made her best speed back to Iandel, and found him in Clondel instead, building a bindinghouse behind their old family cottage. He’d been that certain that he and his new pledge, a Khinish reckoner lapsed like himself, an illuminator named Hanlariel, would acquire a binder. Would acquire her.

She had told him no. But there was no refusing Graefel when he was set on something. And it was an old dream come true, to triad her brother. She could not put love of the road over love of family. So she had stayed, and filled the bindinghouse, and worked with them; and when the head reckoner, Pelkin Illuminator, who was from nearby Drey and had pledged a Clondel publican, passed through to visit his three daughters, Graefel had persuaded him to summon two other reckoners and cast them triad, and Befre had allowed it. So long ago, the day she sat inside the casting circle and wondered at the crease in Pelkin’s brow, the frown in his silver eyes. So long ago that she had found herself subsumed into a soul-plundering oneness, seeing through her brother’s eyes for the first and only time. Understanding the unyielding pride that had made him forsake the proxy ring. Understanding the heartbreaking love for him that had made Hanlariel do the same. Hanla lapsed because she loved him; Graefel lapsed because the Ennead would not recognize his brilliance. He had changed past all knowing, in his time in that holding. His spirit blew through hers like a chill wind, all the warmth of her affectionate, devoted brother gone.

She didn’t know why she’d stayed, in the years after that. In some hope that he might mellow, that being home again might put him back the way he was meant to be. From some growing sisterhood with Hanla, too; the Khinishwoman had her own brand of disciplined pride, a product of her upbringing on that hard sunny island, but there was a warmth and devotion at the heart of her that Befre could not help but love. Then Keiler, their second child, had shown a light and a talent for binding. Befre found she loved her nephew like a son. For a dozen years she trained him, doted on him, grieved with him when he cried at the binders’ harvests, exulted with him when he passed his trial. She watched him working in that temporary threesome with his parents, and knew that they were who he was meant to triad. Graefel had only hardened in those years, become more distant from her–not to mention his older son, lightless Riellen, who’d walked away in his adolescence and prenticed himself in Shrug, to stay. She asked the first reckoners she saw to dissolve her triad, and freed herself from her brother, returning to the road. Leaving her place for Keiler to fill. Leaving Hanla behind, leaving Keiler behind . . . leaving Graefel behind forever.

So long ago she had sat inside that casting circle, feeling the triadic bonds dissolve. For all that Graefel had disappointed her, even hurt her, that dissolution was like cutting off her limbs. If only she’d heeded that crease in Pelkin’s brow and never let herself be cast triad with them in the first place . . . But regretting those years would be regretting who she was. And Graefel reaped what he had sown. Keiler gone, Hanla gone back to Khine, his older son a stolid wheelwright in Shrug. He’d driven them all away with his relentless focus on mind over heart.

She had loved him as long as he would let her.


This material was cut because it slowed the chapter down, and there’s plenty more of Befre’s story there; the book didn’t need this much detail about her relationship with her brother. Triad includes character studies of numerous supporting characters from Illumination, but in most of the other cases—Keiler, Graefel, Hanla, Nerenyi—there was a whole chapter to work with. This chapter does that work for three characters—one of them newly introduced—and there wasn’t room to stretch out. That resulted in this bit of Befre’s story being jammed in too tightly and oozing out of the space it had, so I scraped away the excess. But I like the miniature portraits of her relationships with Hanla and Keiler, and the explanation for why there was a space for Keiler to triad his parents, so I’m glad to have a place to put this part of her, for the record.