A Cliff-edge experience
Moyri and Khushi, kissing in a tree, or rather up a cliff-edge.
Note: parts of this report might be disturbing. Valdyas is not a utopia, and bad things happen, even for player characters. It ends well, though.
I felt that the time had come for me and Moyri to have that chat with Anshen, and that talk with each other. We carefully sneaked out the back way — Aldan had sealed the front for the night, and I the back, and climbed up into the doctor’s garden. He was surprised to see us, of course, but he was smoking something very stinky in a long clay pipe and drinking something very strong from a small cup. On his lap was the book I had been “annotating”.
“We’re only passing through, if you don’t mind, we want to climb the cliff tonight,” I said.
“As long as you take care not to fall down, I would guess that would be all right. I won’t ask whether it has anything to do with the rumpus at the White House this evening, right?”
“Not really, no, this is something between Anshen, Moyri and me.”
He offered Moyri and me a sip from his brandy, which we declined, and let us out through his front door.
At first we could walk arm in arm, or hand in hand, or with our arms around each other’s waist, moving from one way of holding each to another whenever we halted for a kiss, but soon we were on the path climbing the cliff, which is part path, part stairs, and all the way too narrow for people to climb side by side. We made a bit of light, and went up, one after another.
I was remembering how we had come down this path, Aldan and me, after I had danced for Anshen, and how we had stopped every ten or twenty steps to turn to each other and have that long talk I wrote about before.
We ended up on the top of the cliff, instead of in the doctor’s surgery, which was a good thing, obviously.
I put down the rug I had been carrying, and said, “let’s do the prayers first.”
“And then we need to talk…” Moyri answered.
“And after that, we will kiss until dawn,” I grinned. She grinned back, and I took off my clothes, while Moyri constructed a neat little fire. We did the invocations, in two languages, and then I started to dance my prayer, while Moyri concentrated on the fire, and on Anshen.
Apparently, Anshen wanted to give us lots of time together, because His presence was immediately noticeable, and pretty soon He sat next to Moyri, watching me. They were sitting shoulder to shoulder, and head to head, even. They were not talking, Anshen hardly ever seems to feel He needs words, but I’m pretty sure they were getting along well.
When I had finished my dance I stepped around the fire, and put my head close to Anshen and Moyri and asked, a bit confused, I guess, “So, can I have her? She’d still be yours, too, of course, only not in the Order. Do you mind?”
And He kissed Moyri and kissed me, chastely, brotherly even, on our cheek — and went, where-ever it is that Gods go when they go.
The night was warm, the fire comforting, I was naked, and soon Moyri was, too. But we had to talk first…
“I guess I’m still a bit weird to you — well, we’ve been together for a couple of days only, so that’s not that strange. But I fear Aldan, who should know me best, also still doesn’t understand me. I had hoped he would, and would’ve given you lessons in the basic Khushi when you went out the guard hall…” I started, hesitatingly.
“We did talk about you… And yes, he doesn’t understand you.”
“Well, sometimes I don’t understand me either. I guess it’s because how I’m born a Sithi in Valdyas. And every time the Valdyans, well, they all seem to not think very much the City, and when I hear that, I feel more and more Sithi. After all, there was an emperor in the City centuries before the Valdyans got their first king!
“But when I’m home in Turenay, living with my father and mother, brothers and sisters, in the Sithi quarter of the town, praying to the Sithi gods in Sithi, obeying all the rules, I want to be as Valdyan as I can. I’m always feeling like I want to be what I shouldn’t be!”
Moyri nodded, and said, “It might be best to just tell me everything — afterwards it’ll be my turn. It’s not good to get started with secrets.”
“I’m not sure whether you know — but in the City, there are the sagga, that is, the Sithi duyin, there are their slaves who live in the big houses — and then there are invisibles who live in the rest of the City.
“I’m invisible, of course… Like most Sithi in Valdyas. Because we could fly when the Khas came, we didn’t live in the big houses. There are some sagga in Valdyas, but not many. Which means that most Sithi try to claim they’re sagga.
“My father certainly does! We moved away from Veray when there was enough money saved up to get sagga-looking clothes and moved to Turenay, where we could claim to be from the house of Dayati… I’m not sure anyone really believed us, but it seemed to work.
“And then we could prove we were sagga — because I was acccepted at the Guild School. Everyone knows that the invisible have no anea and no anie, they aren’t really people, not people with souls or spirit, so getting accepted at the Guild School proves that you have anie and anea, which means you cannot be invisible, right?”
“And was that the only reason you went to school — to prove your family’s status?”
“No… Of course, there is a lot of status in having a daughter at the school lead by the Queen’s mother, but that wasn’t the main thing for me. It was for my father, of course, he because became head of the Sithi council of Turenay on the strength of it.
“But apart from really enjoying the lessons, the books, the training, the hospital, Doctor Cora, the friends I made… For me it was an escape. I wasn’t allowed to go and live at the school, but I could use exams and the need to study in the library until late at night to escape home now and then. A girl alone cannot walk home after dark, and my brothers were too lazy to come and escort me home. You wouldn’t believe how lazy Sithi men can be, if they start believing they’re sagga!
“So I still had to pull my weight in my mother’s shop, of course, but then, a lot of students have a job next to school, Aldan had. But I needed to borrow my friend’s notes often, when I had to miss a class so we could meet an order or my mother couldn’t get out of bed for a week or two.”
“Aldan had hinted home wasn’t the best place for you, and that he was concerned about your mother and sister’s safety, but he didn’t tell me more,” Moyri said, looking very, very stern.
“I didn’t tell Aldan everything anyway. I couldn’t. But I’ll tell you.
“When the school sent me to Selday, I really had escaped. I had to hide in the stables of the school, or my dad would have prevented me from leaving. I guess it was time I got married, at least in his eyes. I’m sure he would have married me off if he’d known I was going away.
“But, um… You need to know… If you get angry with me, I will expect you to give me a beating. I am always expecting Aldan to beat me, and he never has, but I haven’t learned not to expect it. I got beaten regularly, most weeks on the day of Naigha, because then the bruises would have healed on the day of Anshen, which is when the school goes to the baths. And sometimes in between. It’s become — almost normal for me. I’ve been keeping count of the number of beatings I have missed since leaving Selday. It’s kind of a calendar.
“And, well, it seemed that beating someone made my dad — excited? In any case, after having given us a good beating, he would take my mother, or, if she was away, say visiting her parents in Veray, he’d take me. From behind, of course, so I wouldn’t lose my virginity. Little did he know I had lost it both front and back a year before he started doing that!”
“What! I’m going to kill him! I’m going to have him hanged!” Moyri spat out. I hadn’t expected her to be so angry, and I shrank away from her.
“Don’t hit me! You don’t need to kill him! Aldan has sent a letter to Turenay asking for protection for my mother and sister!”
“I’m not going to hit you, Khushi,” she answered, a bit calmer. “I will never hit you, never. But rape is a capital offense, all by itself, since about seven or eight years, and raping your child, that is so much worse. There will have to be an investigation. That man, on the Sithi council? Working with Radan astin Brun? I cannot believe it.”
I nodded, then came closer again, and put her hands between my legs. “Look, Moyri, maybe you think I’m sort of confused, but except for thinking ‘if you imagine you’re the only one who ever did this to me, well, you’re wrong, you stupid tyrant’, my father hasn’t put me off making love, not at all. I discovered the fun of it before — well, before.
“I like men, I like women, equally. I like being kissed, touched, grabbed, held and stroked. There isn’t much anyone can do together with me that I won’t like. I wish I could have both you and a boyfriend, Aldan preferably, but…”
“I wouldn’t mind. You having a boyfriend next to me, I mean. Really. And for me, it’s always been women, never men. Never men. And I haven’t even got a reason for that. So, have a boyfriend, too, if you want to.”
“I don’t think I will, though! I’ve never really had a boyfriend or a girlfriend before you. I had friends I went to bed with, for fun. I’ve never had anyone who filled my thoughts as much as you do. I guess this is that ichan stuff Aldan was talking about. We don’t have that, we Sithi. Marriage is business and convenience and insurance for when you’re old.”
“If you change your mind, remember what I said,” was all she said, as she kissed me.
“I won’t. Well, I don’t think I will! Now… I’d like to get married to you. If we have to travel to Valdis to get your relief, I will come with you, and on the way back we can stop in Three Hills, and get married by the same old lady who married Hylti and Arni. And in the meantime, if you kiss me, if you put your hand under my skirt, or in my shirt, or nibble my earlobe, whenever we pass in the house, when you come home, or when I come home, I will be happy!
“You know, I’m really a very shallow person. Someone touches me in a friendly way, and it makes me happy. We haven’t used semsin when making love yet, and it’s something I know how to do, and I’m pretty good at it, but when making love, I like to be much more aware of my body than my anie, and your body, and what happens between those bodies. I can play with anea when making love, and we’ll do that,” I ran down, not know what to add, and then I suddenly got a weird thought, and whispered, “I hope I haven’t disappointed you!”
“Great Anshen, Khushi, you’re crazy… If you had disappointed me, would I have come out to Selday after having had only one night with you? I not only love that body of yours, and your soul, but what I had missed most in the Order was what you call ‘shallow’ — and I’ll call it being one with your body. Sure, we’ll play with semsin, later on. For now, let’s play with sweat and skin.”
(Of course I know that I’m teaching Maile to do everything she does with semsin, too, making it as natural as breathing. I know. I do that with everything, except, well, the most bodily thing I do in my life. It’s like the only thing that isn’t — well, sweat, and spittle and and skin and all that sort of thing, it’s good to have something in your life that isn’t all anie and spiritual and things like that.)
Moyri laughed, and grabbed me, and kissed me, and we had a bit of a break…
And then there was this other thing we needed to discuss, which led to Moyri telling me about her life.
“So I’ve sent the letter. Not the whole letter I wrote at first, the letter I eventually sent was very terse, I didn’t even mention your name in it. I didn’t even mention you at all in it! You might say that’s admirable restraint but I don’t think it’s all that admirable, perhaps it’s even cowardice,” Moyri began.
I giggled. “Are you ashamed of your disreputable girlfriend?” And kissed her a bit.
“No, it’s that I’m not sure that I want to leave the Order because I fell in love with you. I know I want out, and I’m not sure why, but I’ve felt like that for a long time.
“You know, Khushi, I’m a passive sort of person — I’ve always let things happen to me rather than making them happen, and perhaps it was you who gave me the push I needed to get off my butt and go my own way instead of the easy cushioned way in a structure that already existed, with a place carved out by all the people who had it before me.”
Moyri sighed, and I said something like “I’m quite sure you’re not passive! You dragged me to your bed, that day in Essle, though I admit it was a saucy Sithi who made kissy noises in your mind that was the first cause! But I can understand feeling that you didn’t want to leave — I don’t think just the ease of being commander, with a fixed role to be, but also your duty. You’re really very dutiful, you know.”
“Maybe, maybe you’re just a tiny bit biased!” Moyri laughed, and went on, “Torin didn’t stay, either. He also left because of a woman, in his case because she was having his child and he wanted to be with his family. If you ever has a child or children they will only be mine — ours — because I belong in your family!”
Well, if Moyri thinks that, she’s in for a shock when she meets Hylti and Arni!!!
She continued, “I don’t know where I stand now. It’s confusing for poor Hinla and Jeran, too, who still regard me as their commander. When I told them I was likely to be relieved of that command sooner rather than later they said they didn’t care, and if I wanted to start an Order house in Selday they’d stay and prepare everything they could, whether I was staying or not. And they’ve started talking to people and looking for a house or a place to build one; I don’t know what I did to deserve such diligent journeymen!”
I muttered something like “well, you inspire loyalty”, but not loud enough to be heard.
“I’m staying all right,” Moyri said, with something of the determination that landed me in her bed in her voice, “Or at least I will come back if Lyse wants me to come to Valdis so she can release me from my obligations. Not from my vows! I’ll be pledged to Anshen as long as I live.”
Well, she certainly wasn’t going to Valdis on her own! Aldan and Maille can take care of the business, if we go during the slack time, when neither the east-bound nor the west-bound ships pass by.
“You’ve been really frank with me. I’ll tell you most of the story of my life — it’s not so much shocking as boring, though. I turned out to be gifted in a village in the wetlands near Tilis, where nobody else was gifted. The priestess sent me to Tilis, and then the midwife, who’s the Guild leader there, she sent me on to Essle to learn more. I ended up learning in the Order because I wanted to learn swordfighting as well. Then it was Rusla who asked me ‘well, when are you moving in?’ when I became a journeyman, and it’s Rusla who is my first choice for commander after me, because she should have been commander instead of me in the first place.
“That Lyse elevated me was only because I was there, I’d taken charge of the Order when we were suddenly without anyone to do that. Moryn killed in the fight in the swamp, Rusla still recovering from it, Torin gone off to get married even before Lyse could confirm his appointment. Someone had to do the work! I was twenty-four for Anshen’s sake, barely a master. Lyse only saw what was happening the moment she passed through Essle, not all the things that had happened before. I mean to say, she knew nothing about me…
“I don’t think I was a bad commander. I just think I’m not the right person to be one. It’s possible that I can serve Anshen better outside the Order than in it, even; having responsibility for everyone in the house but for nobody in particular has always been the one thing that grated on me.
“So there you are, I’m here because I fell in love with you, but I’m not leaving the Order just because I fell in love with you,” Moyri said, in slightly strangled-sounding voice.
“I think,” I began, “I think I’ve never said this to anyone before, but I’m beginning to think that I can say that I’m… in love with you, too.”
And what happened after that, well, that between us, and only the gods and the stars were witnesses.