I’m still not quite sure what happened, but we’ve had an exciting day or two. Of course, the day started exciting enough, with me having Moyri in my bed, a bit rumpled and sleepy and tousle-haired and cuddly. Strange… Her muscles are as hard as steel, her skin as taut as a drum, she’s mostly as cool as several oranges, and even when she’s sweaty as a swamp, she feels like she’s not turning a sweat, if you get what I mean. Compared to her, even though everybody is always surprised by the strength in my arms, which comes from kneading sweet dough, well, I’m fluff. Soft, squishy fluff.
But if that’s what Moyri likes, I’m happy with that!
I offered to get her breakfast in bed, but she insisted on getting up and being about. I thought she might’ve wanted to stay out of sight of her journeymen orderlies (is that the right word? They are in the order, so they must be orderly?) for a bit, feeling a bit embarrassed, but she got up pretty soon after me. Maile was making pancakes, and I started filling the pancakes with greens, sheep’s cheese, pepper and some drips of honey. Pretty soon I was in a completely dream world, dripping honey on Moyri’s breasts… Fortunately, that was when Fian astin Rhydin came back in, and I landed safely in the real world.
Breakfast was mostly a success, everyone liked the stuffed pancakes, though Aldan was a bit dubious, which made me sort of feel that I never please him, and since the school gave me to him when they sent us out to Selday, that’s a bit of a problem — though he doesn’t seem to see it that way. But if he doesn’t see it that way, why does he do things like asking for bread one day, and then pancakes again the next day? I’m still supposed to feed him, am I not? And make sure there’s a house and dinner and so on ready.
Oh well, he’s a good mate, I guess, and we can do work together, and I have learned a lot from him, some things which I only realize right now… The ichan stuff, I mean.
So, when Aldan and Moyri went down to the Guard’s compound to train (and you bet I pushed Moyri to get all of Aldan’s gossip about me, and Aldan to tell Moyri everything he knew about me — I’m not above taking shortcuts when the route promises to turn embarrassing), me and Maile went to bring last night’s batch of sweet candy to the brothels. It turned out to be so much that we couldn’t carry it all on our own, so I hired two boys, twins, to pikul the baskets for Maile and me.
(Moyri just pointed out that “pikul” isn’t Ilaini — it means carrying two containers on each side of a pole, the pole resting on your shoulder.)
I have to admit I was humming, and singing a bit, and skipping and sometimes making a little dance out of walking. This got noticed by neighbours and townsfolk. I couldn’t help myself, though, I was so happy! I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I had nice chat with the madam of the Iss-Peranian brothel. That’s also where we heard more about the mystery. The chat was nice because, well, we understood each other. I wish Moyri and me could have Aldan for a husband, and that Moyri and Aldan would understand that — and we both knew that I might as well wish for Timoine to grow up or the Nameless stop lying.
When Maile and me got home, it was time to prepare the midday-meal for everyone. Tasty, young squid fried with onions. It took a bit of time for everyone to assuage their hunger before we could talk again. I think Moyri and Aldan had a good gossip about me, but I still managed to put my foot wrong, and then I remembered again the bread/pancake disaster (well, it’s never far from my mind), and I just don’t KNOW why Valdyans are so obtuse! Aldan complained about the squid and onions, and Moyri was like, this is the only thing that makes Essle bearable, and I was afraid it would make her homesick, and I don’t WANT her to go away, ever! (Unless she takes me.) And suddenly, we were breast-deep in how Lyse (if that is the correct name, the Commander of the Sworn in Valdis) had just told Moyri to take command in Essle, without asking her whether she felt she could, or wanted, or felt capable of doing that.
I guess… Maile in Essle told Aldan that if there’s one thing that compels me, it’s the compulsion to give. I see you, you need something, I provide… I cannot help myself, I think? In Moyri’s case, it’s duty. Someone tells her, you need to do this, she will do that, without pause. Seems like Aldan forgot all about that conversation, though.
But then Maile gave us her news. She told us there was this girl, Lara, who used to work in the Iss-Peranian brothel, and still came down once a week, and that she had been there in the kitchen, sobbing, crying that “she couldn’t do it anymore”. She was working in the big house…
We already had the idea of going there, Moyri in her persona as Commander of the Order of the Sworn, me as her servant, and investigate the Big House. Something up there wasn’t kashrut, for sure. Even the madam of the Iss-Peranian brothel agreed with that; she told me she had told Azireh more than once to stop having slaves.
In the meantime, Moyri and me went to the big house, where I presented Rhanyn, the housekeeper, with the fruits of my labour, that is, lots of sweets. She ate four pounds of it in one afternoon! And when we left, Maile had Lara with her, and we learned that there were four children kept in the Big House who would be shipped to Albetire as soon as the ship was ready.
What could we do?
The diplomatic situation was complicated; not only were we in Valdyas, with a Valdyan town guard, but parts of Selday were the fief of an Iss-Peranian nobleman, who was not present, and then the Ishey women also held authority. I was pretty sure that the Queen’s laws (it’s her hobby!) superseded every other consideration, but while Maile and I did the dishes, Aldan found it necessary to study the law. He hadn’t even opened his law book! And all of us baby guild runners, we get our own law book when we leave, and I have read a few paragraphs every night ever since we left Turenay.
When we thought of the Ishey women, it was clear we needed to consult Khapo first; he knows us, and his mother is Asuya, the Queen of the Ishey over here. So, after a long afternoon full of discussion and speculation, we went to Khapo’s inn for dinner.
Dinner was good, and then we asked him about this issue.
And this is where I guess I fell asleep and had a nightmare? I must’ve been really tired (well, no kidding, I hadn’t slept at all, last night. When Moyri and I were done making love, I kept awake to drink in her body, her scent, her mind, her spirit, until the cock crowed.) (There were five eggs this morning.) I remember Khapo telling me he knew all about the slaves, and I remember me going off the deep end because he had not trusted me and Aldan to allow us to help. I remember him telling me one of his kids was captive as well. But then I woke up, and that was just a — nightmare?
In any case, we went to visit Asuya; I was still wearing my neat Ishey clothes that I had worn for my visit up-mountain, to the Big House. Asuya was properly indignant, and told her menfolk to assist Khapo, Moyri and the rest of us to get the children out, cost what cost.
So we did… Not me, I was drinking tea with Asuya and eating too many sweets. But my Moyri and Aldan, and the rest of them, they came back with the liberated children! Fian’s daughter, an Ishey boy, and two others. So we’ve now got three extra people in our house, for now.
And there’s this Very Important letter we’re going to have to send to the queen.
And this thing where Moyri needs to travel to Valdis to get dismissed from the order, so she can stay with me, and so we can keep Selday in hand, and each other, too.