First we took in Maile, the daughter of the farmers up-hill with whom I have an agreement for herbs, mint, fruit and food in general. She wanted to become my apprentice sweet-maker, and pretty soon had a couple of friends in the street. That made the house nicely busy, and having an apprentice meant that Aldan could go back to working as a bouncer in the Piebald Carrack, where he hoped to pick up more information.
And then one evening we met a man, Fian astin Rhydin, who was looking for his daughter. She had disappeared a couple of months before, and he refused to believe she had simply gotten lost in the woods, or eaten by a wolf or something like that. Said he was sure he would have found traces if that had been the case, so he was travelling along the coast looking out for any hint about what happened to her.
I am horribly afraid that she never even got to Selday. If I were an evil-doer eager to abduct valdie sangha kids, and let’s be frank, that has happened quite a bit, when the emperor in Ashas was as crazy as he was and the Nameless had started organizing his own Order there, well, I wouldn’t ship the kids out of a harbour town like Selday. I would simply row a pinnace to an isolated creek on the coast, pick up the merchandise and disappear again, like a thief in the night.
But Fian didn’t want to hear of that, and we found a way to have the only ship currently in harbour inspected, but we haven’t heard the results of that yet. Because it was the Feast of Anshen!
I felt a bit strange. Part of that was because of there being no Nameless around, nobody to fight with, nobody to balance myself against. Part of it was the Feast really seemed to be more about the party than the deity. Another part was that I agreed to dance and maybe do more with Ailin from Aldan’s inn — and suddenly I didn’t know whether I actually wanted that!
That was because Aldan keeps talking to me about this weird thing those Valdyans have, which they call “ichana” which I always took to mean snogging and if you felt like it, going further than that. But he’s got all kinds of ideas about it, like only having one “ichan” at the time, or rather, there only being two, which I think is kind of what the “i” at the beginning of the word means? Bah, I was born here in this country, and the language still surprises me all the time. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that Doctor Cora loves her captain Aidan, and also her best friend Selle… So why should I limit myself to just one person?
But Aldan did get me thinking, and so I felt weird and out of it, and my morning with Ailin wasn’t a big success… And when I asked Aidan, who had crept into bed to take care of Ailin, he didn’t! He go out of bed as quickly as he could.
I really wanted to get closer to Anshen, and after I had taught Maile and her two friends the first positions for dancing for the Gods (Aldan came in on it, with Fian… We had to grab clothes really quickly!). Oh, there’s more to tell, because when I looked at Maile, I was sure she is gifted, and the dancing opened her to her gift. Now she’s my apprentice twice over!
In the afternoon, I took Aldan up to the cliff edge. On our way down, we had another one of those long talks about love, and he was wondering how I would feel if he slept with me (well, he does, mostly, only he keeps his hands to himself, mostly), and I was like, if it was fun, well, what’s the problem?
But that was after I had danced with Anshen. I went to the very edge of the cliff, made sure of my footing, dropped my clothes and danced for Anshen. I had so missed his presence during the Feast, though Aldan told me he had felt it in the fire. And my dance for Anshen turned into a dance with Anshen. I really felt good after that, especially when he had kissed me! (On my cheek, not my lips, but not all of us are Maile from Essle.)
For the next morning, we had plans. Aldan was to go down to the harbour and learn what he could about what he could, and wrestle using semsin with Master Erian, and I would take Maile and a basket full of sweets around all the local brothels. The idea was, I would keep the madams busy with my spiel on how getting customers to offer the girls sweets instead of drinks would help keep things nice and unimpaired, and would make money, too, while Maile would make friends with the kitchen drudges, the girls and the dogsbodies.
This worked! Both commercially as well as spy-fically. Maile now has friends in low places, and since she will be delivering sweets to the brothels every afternoon, we’ll keep up with gossip in yet another way. The only trace of a young girl passing through the brothels we found, though, was an eleven year old Ruzyn, from the description born to become a blacksmith, but running away to sea. Not our quarry. And we’ll be making good money, too, from the extra sales! There were four brothels, one with an Iss-Peranian madam, three with Valdyan madams. I need to write down their names… All of them were friendly, but one of them was really greedy! The Iss-Peranian madam is a Dandar, I’m pretty sure of that.
But we also have to make all those sweets, and that’s where I started teaching Maile. I don’t know, Valdyans are weird, if you’ve got semsin, it’s part of you, and it’s certainly part of all I do, so I taught Maile how to feel the anea in herself, and how to feel it’s, gently, part of yourself. We started with stirring honey dough, and I guess that, yes, it makes a difference? At least, Aldan and Fian were surprised when they found us working on tomorrow’s batch in a kind of serene semsin fugue.
When we came out of that, Maile went to find her friends, and took them back to our kitchen, where she insisted on cooking. And I insisted on her doing that in the same way: gently using the anea around her, the gift inside her, being aware of herself, the food and the purpose of the food. Her friends were really interested! Next, we’re going to do seals, so she can close her room to herself, but first the foundation needs to be really solid.
So that night, Fian closed the house, while Aldan and I (by the way, the sneak Aldan wasn’t even nice to Ailin even though I asked him to! He got into our bed in the morning of the Feast day, so I am telling this out of order, and I asked him to be nice to Ailin because I had been such a flop for her! And he didn’t! He got up and out of bed almost immediately after me, while I was making pancakes with cream and berries for when they would come out of the bedroom in an hour or so, and hungry!), so while Aldan and I discussed the events of the day, such as they were.
Note to myself: we have the following mysteries:
- The secret room in the ship that is being built for the steward of the White House
- The open presence of slaves in Selday, which belongs to the Kingdom of Valdyas, even though it’s a fief of Koll Konande
- The disappearance of Ayni, the daughter of Fian astin Rhydin.
Okay, having that in mind, we get to the next episode, which is straight out of the theatre play that’s making the rounds of Valdyas now, “The Queen and the Prince”, all about Doctor Cora, that is, Queen Asa, and Captain Aidan. I so hope that the players will visit Turenay one day, when Cora, Aidan, Athal and Raisse are all there to see the play and get indignant!
Anyway… It’s possible there might be something in this “ichan” thing after all.
I know I had felt an itch in my belly ever since we had to leave Essle without meeting Moyri again. And I did send her a little memento to remember me by. And there have been nights when I didn’t dream of Moyri, but those were mostly the nights after the days I walked with the Selday guard and was too tired to eat, let alone dream.
And I know! Moyri is a commander of the Order of the Sworn. Sworn to not care enough about anyone else, because such a care could be a weapon in the hands of the Enemy. But her mind tastes of flowers and resolve, and her body of sweat and intoxication.
I know I’m garbling all of this! But one morning, a few days after the Feast, when we sitting in front of a harbour-side inn, we saw people coming in from the ship that had made landfall the day before. I was so tired from being a double master to Maile that I hadn’t made the effort to look at the ship with semsin.
And then we saw that three of them were Sworn! Two young journeymen — and Moyri! I jumped up, overturned the table and ran at her, grabbed her and started undressing her. I already had her trousers unlaced (that’s the doctor Cora bit, if the Captain returns from a long journey, you can place bets on where the Doctor will make love to him, last time it was in front of the town gates) when it occurred to Moyri to ask me to take her somewhere inside first, so I took her home…
It took a bit of time before we were actually on speaking terms… That is, we went into our bedroom, and didn’t say anything but little love words for quite a bit of time. Also, we made noise. Enough that Maile started making noise in the kitchen to let us know she was around.
Moyri told me she had come with the two journeymen, who actually are very young, to see whether Selday should have an Order House. I think it should… But she admitted that she also had come out to see me again. She’s all confused inside, because this should not happen to Sworn, especially not to Commanders! Fair enough… But there she was, drinking tea dressed in a bedsheet at our kitchen table. I think the best move would be to go up the cliff and ask Anshen. We both agreed that the caged fire in the kitchen stove isn’t even close to be a good fire for prayers.
Then Aldan came home with the journeymen, two girls, and we talked about Selday, how we had setup ourselves here, gotten to know people, joined the Town Guard and so on. When Fian arrived, we also talked about his daughter.
And then it was time to eat, do our prayers and go to bed. Now the house is really full! Fian sleeps in Aldan’s room, but Aldan went up as well, because I took Moyri back to our bed, while the apprentices are sleeping on pallets in the kitchen. The cat has joined Moyri and me, I hope she won’t make a nuisance of herself.