The happiest day of my life!
Up to now, at least. Though what happened isn’t the reader’s business…
I’m so not going to go into detail about the happiest day in my life! (Only that I finally danced for Moyri the dance of the lover.) Our apprentices were happily exploring and teaching themselves how to hunt, and Moyri and I had our day in the hay-field. Late in the afternoon, I asked Moryn and Maile to come to the field, too, having bought bread, wine and cheese from a farmer who had just come to milk her goats.
The apprentices had caught a hare and two guinea fowl, and two baskets of berries: raspberries and blueberries. They also told me they’d seen another kind, but that Maile hadn’t felt good about those, though they were very glossy and attractive. She didn’t know how to describe her feeling, or the berries, but when she showed them to Moyri and me, with her mind, we knew those were woody nightshade. This made for a good lesson on how to follow your intuition when determining true and false, right and wrong, good and evil.
Maile taught Moryn how to pluck the fowl, we made fire and had a picnic. Weird that we felt like it, because we’ve had a week of nothing but picnic dinners, but the weather was still glorious, the fowl were tasty, we had stories about ourselves, and later that night, dancing for the Gods. We slept out in the field, and in the morning took ourselves back to the Black Swan.
There we swapped the hare for provisions, I healed Moryn’s sores with semsin (to his surprise) and set out for Lenay.
We must’ve been deep in Lenyas already because after a few days, we got to another inn, and there were plenty servants of the Nameless there. This caused the apprentices not a little anxiety, and we got to talking about the differences between Anshen and his twin brother, the Nameless. (Curiously, only Valdyans and Sithi make the distinction, other peoples, like the Ishey, the Iss-Peranians, the Khas and the Velihans don’t get it.)
In particular, there was a middle-aged-to-old woman, probably a well-to-do merchant, who was watching us closely. I saw her trying to pick up the thread of our conversation, so I implemented a bold and audacious plan. (Moyri wasn’t there to stop me, she was fixing saddle straps and things like that.)
I went up to this lady, and asked her, “My apprentices are curious about the differences between your Nameless and our Nameless. Would you mind talking to them? You can be as sneaky and convincing as you want!”
She laughed, and answered, “I won’t try to poach your apprentices! But it’s an interesting proposal. Yes, I’ll do it. It cannot hurt for people in your guild to know the facts about the Gods, instead of those fairy tales you all are telling them!”
I grinned, and ordered two cups of the very best local wine, and we went to our table.
“People, this is master Ruzyn. She has agreed to answer all your questions — except that’s she’s not going to give secrets away, of course. Get going!”
This was utterly delightful! Curiosity is a religion with Maile, and with Moryn maybe even more so. A rapid barrage of questions, deeper questions when the answers weren’t satisfying them, huh’s, quick notes in Maile’s book, looks of understanding between the two, then more questions. Master Ruzyn seemed rather entertained by my apprentices, and as far as I could see, gave her answers honestly, though maybe not fully, and certainly she was looking at the world in a skewed way — power, acquisition, domination, but tempered with a tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye kind of feeling for justice, too.
(That reminds me of a conversation I had with Moyri, about justice. Valdyans always think that the invisible people being executed in the Temple of Anchuk (that is, the Nameless) in Solay are sentenced criminals, because they have heard that “justice is being done” in the name of Anchuk, in the City. But what is justice? We’re living in a land where the law governs the King, and victim and criminal have rights — which is awesome — but from what I heard, justice in the City is more a case of having the right number of executions for a given day, and no Sithi Sagga would ever be executed. Mom’s parents have told of hiding away when the priests and slaves of Anchuk rode out to catch their victims. That they had to hide.)
Then Moyri came in, ordered beer, grinned at me, and, understanding that she shouldn’t interrupt this conversation sat down at another table.
I finally got in a question of my own, something I’ve always wondered about: with us, Anshen never speaks much, but he always has your back for you, while the Nameless — only I did honour Master Ruzyn by using the name — would talk the hind leg off a donkey, and was that the same for her, or the other way around?”
“Yes, Master Khushi,” she answered, “The Nameless might be present, but he will never give any proper arguments for why he should be chosen or followed, With Archan, he will present you the arguments for his case logically and persuasively. You only have to listen to be convinced.”
I nodded, and wanted to dig a bit deeper, but Moryn and Maile were faster — they argued that “arguments” weren’t all that convincing if they were bad arguments, and that there’s something called “logic” that their master was always going on about — and intuition, which she apparently mentioned even oftener.
I blushed, and Master Ruzyn grinned, and complimented me. That was when Moyri came up to our table — we clearly had hit a pause. Master Ruzyn ordered nibbles, and I ordered more wine. And I introduced Moyri, which gave Master Ruzyn a bit of start, when she realized who Moyri used to be.
Then the apprentices’ question about intuition gave me another idea.
“Master Ruzyn, would you mind if my apprentices touched you? Finger tips only, but with their mind?”
She shook her head and answered, “No, I wouldn’t mind. It might be good for them — especially if they recognize something of themselves in me.”
“Being human, for sure, but for the rest — I want to try!” Maile said.
Master Ruzyn extended her hands to them, palms up, and Maile touched her left and Moryn her right hand. Almost immediately they withdrew.
“Ew!” cried Maile, “it’s feeling like the woody nightshade felt!”
Moryn looked troubled and only said, “I don’t want to describe this… But Maile is right.”
“Congratulations,” Master Ruzyn said to me, “you have them thoroughly on your side.”
Embarrassed, I replied, “Aw, when Aldan and I were coming down to Essle, there was this boy, a journeyman with the Nameless, who couldn’t keep his eyes from my body when I was being bathed and shaved in the common bathing room in the castle, and because I had Aldan with me, he couldn’t speak to me, so he used his mind to caress me — and it felt like being towelled with a week-dead hedgehog!”
“Why hedgehog?” Maile wanted to know.
“Because of the prickles!”
“Why a week dead?” Moryn wanted to know.
“Because it smelled foul and decayed!”
“He should not have done that! That was extremely rude! This is simply not allowed!” Master Ruzyn put in.
And I had to blush, because, well, what the boy had done wasn’t so different from what I had done in my first fencing session with Moyri, and Moyri had ticked me off for that with the words, “Don’t do that again, never — you’re not with the Nameless!”
And now it turned out that even the servants of the Nameless shouldn’t do that…