Arin

Edited out much of the fumbling because that was player incompetence, not character incompetence. There’s a lot of stuff that Maile can’t do (yet, mostly), and she does need to do things with her hands in order to think, but she’s not that inept.

I don’t know if the tower of Jeran’s castle is an original but forgotten Sealed Tower, but I’m leaving it here for the GM to do with it what he wants.

So I’d suddenly acquired a master. Not that he was in very good shape– for one, he stank. Moyri pulled herself up on my leg and whispered “Piss!”

“Yes, you’re right,” I said. “But we’re going to do something about that.”

First, though, we shared the last of the party leftovers with Arin. He couldn’t eat much, but I was pleased to see him get at least a meat pasty and some of the fruit inside him.

Now for a wash. “Do you have another set of clothes?” I asked.

“In Kushesh,” he said.

“Where he couldn’t pay the bill,” Moryn said when I raised my eyebrows.

“Here they make you do the dishes when you can’t pay,” Lyase-Lédu said.

“But there was no kitchen in that house,” Moryn said, “so the girl kept his clothes and kicked him out.”

“We’ll find you something,” I said. There wasn’t anything to carry or heat water in, just two soldiers’ eating bowls, so we’d have to take him to our own island. He didn’t protest when I suggested that, but the boat was very crowded with another large man in it. Raith and Lyase-Lédu rowed with determination.

As we came nearer to the city, Arin held his head with a pained look on his face. I tried to throw an anea cloak around him, with a hood, and it seemed to help him a little but not nearly enough.

The goat was nowhere in sight when we landed on our island. I didn’t find her in the store attic — fortunately — but she was in the smithy, thoughtfully tasting the bellows. I gave her a thwack on the side of the jaw, guaranteed to make any dog or goat let go of whatever they’re biting, and pulled her away by the tail. “The next thing I’m going to make is a bar for that door!” I said.

“But what if she learns to lift it?” Serian asked. “Goats are clever.”

Well, solve that problem when it happens. I asked Moryn to milk the goat — “not slaughter it?” “Not now, not until she stops giving milk. Or earlier, if I need the skin for new bellows” — and helped the girls who had started filling the large copper with water. Raith lit the fire with her mind. “Thanks!” I said. “I want to learn that from you.”

“I did it at the party,” she said, “that’s how I know I can.”

Moryn and the girls were undressing Arin, and I put his clothes in the bucket with warm water and soap but I had little hope they’d ever get clean. “Moryn? Do you have a razor?” I asked, because we’d have to shave Arin to get rid of all the vermin. He didn’t only have hair on his head, his chin, and his groin, but all over his body, and it was all riddled with lice and fleas.

Serian was impressed by the hair. “When I’m big I’m going to have hair like that!” he said.

Moryn scowled. “You’re Iss-Peranian? Or Síthi?”

“Well, both.”

Neither of those peoples had much hair on their body, I knew. And I’d seen Prince Uznur, who was all Iss-Peranian, with a shirt open to his waist, and not a single hair on his chest.

Arin’s skin was scars all over. Cuts, what looked like whip lashes, badly healed burns. When the razor came close he flinched and started to panic, but I held him with hands and mind while Moryn did a good job of shaving him. “We can’t sell that hair, can we?” Serian asked wistfully, but it was full of vermin and dirt and we swept it into the water. I’d wanted to burn it because fishes might try to eat it and choke, but according to Seran fishes weren’t as stupid as that.

After we’d washed Arin –the girls with much giggling, and Arin bore it resignedly — Moryn lent him a loincloth and I the old work-shirt that was much too large for me, and that he could just squeeze into.

“The first thing I’m going to teach you is to seal your house,” he said, and he showed me what to do, not from the inside as I’d been doing but from the outside, by throwing something over it that looked like a cloth. When he thought I’d got it, he said, “That’s enough teaching for now. I want to sleep, call that boy of yours so I can teach you more later.”

He stumbled inside and sat cross-legged on the straw mattress. I hurriedly got some food out so I wouldn’t have to go through my own seal, then did as he’d shown me. “We can’t help,” Lyase-Lédu said, “but you said we’ve got a lot of strength, you can use that!” And both she and Raith were wide open, if I’d been with the Resurgence I could have drained them completely dry. I didn’t, of course, but I did take some of what they offered because I discovered that I’d used a lot on keeping Arin safe from the multitude of people in Essle, even though we still lived in a quiet neighbourhood.

Moments after we’d closed the seal we could hear Arin snoring.

Then I called Lochan, who was very surprised, and didn’t understand more than “come here” of what I tried to say to him, but a moment later I knew he was on his way.

“Tomorrow I’ll go and buy clothes for Arin from the sailor shop,” I said.

“But who will hold up the thing then?” That was Serian, who understood what I’d been doing and seen me make an effort (“it looks like you need to poop but it won’t come out”) but couldn’t see the seal at all. “Can’t you make one that stays put forever?”

I can’t,” I said, “and nobody can, now, but hundreds of years ago there were some people who could. There are the Seven Sealed Towers that I learned about at school but I don’t know why they’re called Seven, there are only five. Liorys, Valdis, Dol-Rayen, Ildis and Lenay, and the one in Dol-Rayen fell into the sea when the whole town did. Some have eight sides inside and out, and some are round on the outside and eight-sided on the inside.”

“There’s an eight-sided tower in Rizenay,” Raith said. “Well, we call it a tower, but it’s about this high — she pointed to her waist — and the shepherds use it, they sit around the fire-pit in the middle. There used to be a lot of stones around it but people took them all away to build houses. It’s from when there were still barons in Rizenay.”

I knew that Rizenay had a baron, but she probably didn’t know the difference between barons and noble houses; as far as I knew the last Rizean had died at his manor-house outside the town, without a tower.

“I’d like to see it,” I said.

“You wouldn’t like it, it’s cold! You soft people from the south don’t know what cold is. When you’re cold enough you think you’re warm, that you can go and sit down and feel warm, and then you die.”

“Does that happen often?”

“It happens to lots of people. Happened to me when they turned us out of the house when Mother couldn’t pay the rent any more. ”

“But you’re still alive,” I said.

“But Mother died, and I almost died, and then the people from the south came and made me alive again and took me with them. I liked it, never to be cold again! But then I found out that they weren’t nice people, that they were nasty, when we were in Ildis.”

I didn’t ask what had happened in Ildis, and I didn’t question Raith’s story about her mother –hadn’t she said that her mother was drunk all the time? — but nodded and said, “It’s a good thing we got you out of there, and I see why you never want to go back.”

I went to do the washing, but there was no saving Arin’s clothes. They needed pounding to get even close to clean and that would make them fall apart. Perhaps there was some paper-maker who could still do something with the cloth. I could make him a shirt from my bolt of linen, at least.

While I was coming to that conclusion Raith and Serian were teasing each other, and Raith had just said something to Serian that he didn’t like so he glared at her and pushed her over, with his mind! “You’ll be in the lessons with us,” I told him.

“But I didn’t do anything!”

“You pushed her with your mind so you’re gifted,” I said. “I don’t know what to do with you but we’ve got a master now and we can find out.”

Lochan arrived just then, confused because all he knew was that I’d wanted him to come. “We’ve got a master,” I told him, “but he’s all broken from the war, he’s asleep in the house.” We all went in, and there he was, fast asleep. Well, it’s easier to investigate someone when they’re asleep, so that’s what I did; I took his measure for a shirt first, because that’s the way I’m made, I can’t sit down to think, I have to do something to think.

As I was cutting out the pieces I told Lochan most of what I knew about Arin and the war. “There’ve been so many dead people going through him,” Moryn added, “that he can’t stand living people any more. It’s part of how he’s broken.”

Now I turned all my attention on Arin, and I could see that the part of his spirit that someone else would get anea from the world with was all shattered and grown back together mixed-up.

“You’re looking difficult,” Raith said, “what’s up?”

So I showed her what I saw, and she understood it. “Oh, that’s like Coran who got under the horse mill! Under all the horses! His arms and legs were all smashed to pieces and he healed all crooked. They sent him to Turenay for the witch doctor to fix him.” And I did indeed remember a young man from the north with arms and legs grown crooked after an accident, and Doctor Cora working with him for half a year or so, a little bit every day, to get it back to what it ought to be again.

“I don’t think I can do that,” I said, “though fixing things is what I do. Let’s see how far we get.”

We could almost see how all the little pieces of his spirit had broken and grown together again, and I knew I had to start inside and work to the outside, though my first thought would have been to start from the outside like a tangled ball of wool. It was beyond me, though. “I know of a doctor,” I said, “Ashti, she’s doctor Cora’s apprentice, she works at the harbour. I’ll try to get hold of her tomorrow.”

But now I had to find a way to keep the seal up and still sleep. I could do a simple seal inside the house that would stay up for the night, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough. “Hey,” Moryn said, “Arin used to use me as an anchor for that sort of thing, I can’t do things myself but I’m pretty good at holding it steady if someone else does it. Just give me a sword and I’ll keep watch.”

Swords were no problem! I had two in fact, my own that I’d been training with in Turenay and the one my brother Jeran had given me when I set out. That one was a bit longer, so I gave it to Moryn and he stuck it in the ground in front of him. I could see that my seal was pinned to the ground with it, and expected that it would stay put. So we all went inside, even Lochan, and lay around the sleeping Arin, and slept.