We reached the Eternal Fire just before noon. There was now a serious-looking eight-sided wall around the fireplace, the place where Arni sent the Nameless packing. Well, wall, it was more like a pile of boulders and smaller stones, a sort of berm or rampart. Still, quite a few people must’ve added their stone.
We did our prayers, only in Ilaini this time. We remembered the King and Queen, and the hangings that probably would be happening right now. And then, while the horses had a rest, the apprentices had a stroll around, Moyri and I went to look for a secluded place to make love to each other. By now, Maile and Moryn don’t even giggle any-more when they notice their masters going all lovey-dovey and touchy-feely, from the looks on their faces they’ve begun to find it normal. Cute normal, but normal. Which is good.
The love-making was also good, of course.
Early in the afternoon we reached a farmhouse, and I recognized it from Hylti’s descriptions. So we asked whether we could sleep in the hay, which was, of course no problem. We had news from Valdis, which was welcome, and they had plenty of food, and letters to bring to Lord Jeran, the baron of Three Hills, whose farm this used to be.
I sent out the apprentices to help with the haymaking, though I wasn’t sure whether Moryn’s help would actually be helpful. But this is a big farm, with lots of gifted people, and lots of things to learn. Well, for Moryn. Maile knows all the farm-work already, of course, but maybe, probably, they do it differently here? I don’t know, I’m a town girl born and bred, apart from a bit of herbal gardening. Which I contracted out to Maile’s mum, and I’m wondering what state my garden is in now… Maile’s mom has permission to use whatever is ready to use whatever is ripe and ready. I miss my garden! I miss my town! I miss my work!
And Maile had told me the same… Moyri was also ready to go back to Selday, but really, this probably is the last time we’ll be outside Idanyas for years and years, so we really should visit Turenay and Maile’s native village. I’m not even sure whether that’s got a name.
After dinner, thinking these thoughts, I realized that once we’d be in Turenay, three of us would stop drinking the tea that stops our courses, and that I’d better prepare Moryn for some very grumpy company for a week or a bit more. It’s likely we’d all be making our oblation to Dayati, or the Mother at the same time, and I don’t know about you, but I get grumpy as a wild boar sow with piglets when I have to choose between wearing bloody diapers or have the blood run down my legs, into my clogs. Also, belly-ache, feeling sobby and teary and wondering whether Moyri will mind us making love, because I also get really in the mood for that.
Bah, I haven’t had a period since about two weeks before I left Turenay, six months ago! But it has to happen, Moyri agreed with me, and it just cannot be much longer for Maile’s first period.
So I took Moryn apart and sitting at the edge of the mill-pond, I put all of this to him. From what he told me about the hide-out he was living in, in Essle, he’d seen plenty of older girls (and boys) but he probably just avoided all of that by going out and picking some pockets. This time, he’d have bear it.
He was fairly optimistic though, and actually more interested in the question of whether there were any pretty girls in Turenay who were likely to notice him. Well, he’s smart, no longer icky-thin but rather well-knit together, he’s got a very nice face, and a really nice way with him — always interested but not a snoop at all.
And yes, there are plenty of cute girls in Turenay, I must’ve fucked at least a dozen myself. Of course, those might be a bit too old for him. I think most of my bed partners, men and women, have been my age, a bit older or sometimes even quite a bit older. No matter, it’s a good sign he’s getting interested. Though my bet is that he and Maile will start with each other, and probably in Veray — see having our periods in Turenay as noted above.
I’m not sure any-more how — no, I know again. It was because I told him about that dozen-or-more women I had been in bed with. That made me realize that this is actually something that’s changed while I was growing up. Not for Sithi or Iss-Peranians: we still think it’s fine if two women have sex, as long as they’re married to the same man, that is.
Ishey are weirder: they expect that boys mess with each other, until they become men by acquiring an iron knife. And that’s a really strong expectation; if a boy isn’t interested, he will be taken in hand by his mates. Their sisters probably also have sex with each other, but nobody talks about that. And afterwards, when everyone is adults, marriages are really rare, and many Ishey women just hunt around a bit of someone they want to have babies with, and apart from that, men and women seem kind of uninterested. Although then, there’s Veh, who’s a man with tits and a cunt, but still indubitably a man, with a wife (though his wife is Iss-Peranian). And Tao and King Mazao are with each other, too, both men.
Valdyans have allowed men with men, women with women and men with women for ages, there are stories that Halla of Halla’s book had a girlfriend, not a husband, and that she was with her until they both died of old age. But they weren’t married. Marriage between men or between women — that’s new, and it’s happening more and more. For Hylti and Arni, they told me Arni’s mother was very dubious, and only came round when there were grandchildren coming, and they had to find a very old lady who really didn’t care about her reputation to marry them.
But it all started with Raith, the Witch from Lenyas, or rather, the previous baroness of Lenyas. And I started telling Moryn the tale of the Wall of Souls, the Land without Anie and the Day of the Weddings, when I realized that this was something that probably every teenager on the farm would like to hear, so I called everyone together, and we sat down for a bout of tall stories.
At least, that’s what they thought, but since I’d been told about it by the Sergeant of Arms in Turenay, who had been there, and who is gifted, and had shown me his memories, I could show every gifted kid what had happened. I think we more than repaid our hospitality with this! I had a huge headache, afterwards, of course, because of all the power I had been using, but it was so worth it.
The next day we reached Three Hills. I could feel Hylti and Arni from the moment we’d set out, so there wasn’t much of a surprise, but we did get a BIG welcome. And they promised to help us convince Lysna, the friend of the old lady who had married them, but who had died that same winter, to marry us. It was so lovely to have their children in my lap again, and chat with the whores from the other side of the street and gossip about Aldan, and give them all the news. Moyri sat next to me, and even though she’d never been here before, she said she felt at home here like nowhere but Selday. And even my sourdough starter was still going strong! Arni had kept it up and was baking daily now!!!
The next morning we went out to meet lady Lysna, who is really old, and maybe a bit doddery, but not so doddery that she didn’t try to get a good look in my shirt. I though, ah, probably she and Alaise were more than just gossip friends, too. Well, I don’t mind! I’ve got nice tits, and if someone likes to look at them, that doesn’t hurt me.
She also told me, when I told her I make candy for a living, that she loved sweet-coated almonds. Well, I’ve got a recipe for that! And Maile had told me she wanted to work again, right!
And she agreed to marry us at dawn, too.
So, in the afternoon, when Moyri was making sure the Thirsty Queen (that’s the inn, the Queen was thirsty because she was nursing her baby in that inn) knew there was going to be a party tomorrow afternoon that might last into the night, I called up Maile, and the two of us bought a loaf of sugar, honey, four different kinds of colouring, almonds (they grow almonds here, so they’re very fresh and good), aniseed and peppermint oil, begged Arni for the use of her kitchen, and started making sweet almonds. We had yellow, blue, green, red and white almonds when we were done! Lady Lysna liked them immediately and immensely, and even though many people avoid blue foods (and blueberries?) immediately selected a blue one and started sucking on it. She doesn’t have many teeth left.
When we were doing this, I pinged Moyri and told her we’d better visit the Baron, Jeran, too, that’s only friendly, and maybe he would be able to give us some pointers, too. Besides I wanted to chat with his daughter, Jerna, and gossip about Aldan. She agreed, and the four of us, with a strict rule that the apprentices could listen, but shouldn’t speak, went up to castle.
This turned out to be unexpectedly nice! He’s a very nice man, I already knew that I could fancy his daughter because she’s cute and smart and pretty. Pity, though, that the first thing she asked after was Aldan. It seems that my brown-eyed boy has made a real conquest there, and more’s the pity that it’s very unlikely that he’ll go back to her. He’s never even mentioned her ever after. Though that’s perhaps because he’s very good at not telling much about himself.
We agreed that it’d be a good idea to set up something for the barons of Valdyas like what we have for us guild runners sent out from Turenay: a correspondence network with coded letters informing everyone else what’s up in their territories. And the King and Queen should be part of this, too, of course.
And after that, we went down, to bed and to sleep. Tomorrow morning, at dawn, we’ll be married!