Doctoring has side-benefits.
And then we encountered a problem… A wide valley with steep sides running north to south blocked us. There wasn’t any way we could get the cart down to the valley, where we could see there was a village, with houses half in the hillside, half built out. It was very strictly a footpath, or maybe a donkey or a goat path, but definitely not a horses or carts path. So we left the cart and the horses and two people to guard them, and went down, to ask whether there was a way around the valley.
The village, though, turned out to be pretty large, again almost a small town. The village chief was a woman in her sixties, obviously Rhydin, equally obviously not a Lady. She introduced herself as Mialle, married to a fisherman with his own smack.
“Lady Mialle,” I started, and she grinned and said, “Drop the ladies! Just Mialle, if you please!”
At that point, seeing I was getting flustered, Moryi took over, “Well, Mialle, I’m Moyri, this is my wife, Khushi and we -”
And with an absolute lack of respect for the baronial dignity, Mialle butted in, “Ah, you’re the new baroness. I’ve heard you’d be passing by. Come to check up on your tax base, right?”
Moyri grinned and answered, “Well, the actual checking up will be done by Halla, our clerk of the purse.”
Mialle eyes went wide when she saw who Moyri was pointing out; but in a few days, she will know that you can be competent and knowledgeable while still being only thirteen years old. I think people should count as grown-up when they enter their apprenticeship, not when they leave it!
“In any case, we’re stuck; we cannot get the cart and the horses down, so we wanted to ask you whether there’s another road. And, yes, we’ll be staying here for at least two nights.”
I put in, “And we want to visit the leper village, too, so I need to talk to your Priestess of Naigha.”
“That’s a coincidence, right now she is at the leper village, she and her colleague from the Lord Geran’s village visit there together. She’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Oh, if she’s gifted, please tell her to stay there, and have her colleague stay there too! Then we’ll go there tomorrow morning.”
“But what is it that you’re going to do?”
“Well, me and doctor Jeran, that’s the tall gangly man over there, we’re going to heal everyone!”
That got us some silence. There was a look of appeal mixed with anguish in Mialle’s eyes as she looked from Jeran to me to Moyri.
“So… Not just taxes, then, but caring.”
Moyri nodded firmly, and from that point on, we got on like a house on fire with Mialle. She’s got a sense of fun and humour that would have had me wet my loincloth if I had worn one, which I never do. When she was young, sixteen or fifteen or so, she’d walked away from her Rhydin parent’s White House to marry a fisherman’s son, and then after some years, they’d picked up all they had, and started the village here.
Again, of course, it’s not just fishing and farming that made this village tick. They’re going to have a Temple of Mizran too, as soon as we’ve got a good candidate, preferably someone with a sense of humour, so we can make the smuggling “official”. Great Mizran, it’s not like we’re actually taxing things brought in or brought out…
But she had a very nice, very sweet white Iss-Peranian wine, and her husband turns out to be adorable! He’s about sixty, too, but he matches his wife when it comes to jokes and fun, and he’s got soft green eyes in a dark, weather-beaten face. If you’d just look at his face, you’d think he’s a bandit, and then if you see his eyes, you’ll want to kiss him. At least, that’s what happened to me, so I grabbed Moyri instead and we went to our room and took our time, and when we came back, dinner was almost over.
But Mialle had saved some dishes for us, so that was fine.
I love this kind of work, I really do. I mean, going into a village and go through all the people and heal who needs healing. I guess part of it is that it makes me feel like I’m doing something right, something Anshen loves me for, too.
Part of it is that I get to walk around without any clothes on all the time. Because I have to wash all over between each patient, it’s silly to wear clothes! That’s the reason why we, doctors trained in Turenay, work naked… Those people from Veray, they are weird, making nothing but extra work for the laundry people.
But I also just like it when people look at me, I guess? Most men and almost most women like to see me naked. And it helps with lots of patients, because they get distracted, and I can work without them worrying or distracting me.
But mainly I just like to feel people looking… Okay, that’s weird, I know, and Moyri doesn’t understand that. But that’s fine, it’s not a problem: she just is happy with me as I am, that I’m me, and doesn’t mind if she doesn’t understand me all the time. She really isn’t jealous — she says it’s because she knows that she’s the first person I have loved, the Valdyan way.
And I guess she also doesn’t mind me being inventive when we make love. There’s so much playful fun we haven’t tried yet! And sometimes, something new works, and sometimes she’ll shrug and tell me, “No, that’s not working for me.” And I don’t mind that: there are things that don’t work for me either.
And, of course, even though the work is hard, we have our mid-day break, when we take food and wine up-stream, and eat and drink and make love, and after an hour or two, go back.
Funny, though, Jeran and Maile, from the second day on, are doing exactly the same thing! We are Setting an Example! We’ve even had to agree that Moyri and I would take the left bank, and they the right bank, and make sure there’s some distance. I don’t mind being seen… But the idea of seeing my apprentice, that feels so wrong! So there, I’ve got some sense of the decencies!
Though I did give Maile the extended talk, after the first time we walked back together. When she’d told me she’d kissed Jeran all over, though hadn’t yet gone further than kissing and fondling. Not the one about fun only being fun as long you both have fun, but things you might want to try out, and how to do that safely. I told her she was going to tell me, don’t tell me this, and she said she wouldn’t! But it happened in the end, when I told her how the desire of that sailor woman to be beaten had made Jeran so sick, so don’t try to get him to spank you… That’s when she told me to shut up, so I told her, told you so, and we had a fit of the giggles.
She did tell me about the two big feathers they’d found, and used to tickle each other, which I think is a good sign.
I do believe in being prepared, so I’ve prepared my apprentice to the best of my knowledge. I only hope it’ll be enough, though Jeran is a good man, and even if they grow apart in the future, as they get older, right now, they’re an item.
We’d met the two Priestesses of Naigha, Alyse from Mialle’s village, and Arvi from the village a bit further on. Arvi had brought her daughter, Lara, too, who’s ten or eleven. We spent a long evening getting to know each other, and, though Moyri hadn’t noticed until I told her, I knew from the beginning that Alyse and Arvi used these meetings in the leper village to sleep with each other. As Alyse said, as long as it isn’t with a man, Naigha doesn’t mind what we do. And Arvi added that she at least detested men, but well, there was the one night a year, and what can you do? I’ve never met Priestesses of Naigha I liked better!
And Lara, she’s coming up to Selday next year. Either she’ll stay in the Temple, or with us in the Pink House. I think she’ll be staying for a year — she does feel called by Naigha, but there’s so much she wants to learn!
Oh, and the face she pulled when she told me she wanted to sleep in the tent we’d brought for our cleaners — saying, “Can I sleep with your apprentices? My mothers want to sleep together. Again!” That made me and Moyri laugh out loud, but she knew we weren’t laughing at her, and I think she indeed meant it as a joke.
The apprentices where a bunch of young people from Mialle’s village to help with the cleaning, as well as some of our people. But most of our people had stayed in Mialle’s village, to help tending the horses and the cart and learning about that village. Only Maile, Jeran and Sabeh had come with us.
One day we sent for the Ishey boys, though, because the blacksmith’s workplace needed a thorough rebuild.
Like always, we started with the children, and Jeran and I only worked together on a patient if they had something else than the silver sickness, leprosy. That happened a couple of times, and oh! The worms! Everyone was riddled with worms! That ceased to be a mystery when I learned that they often ate roasted deer, mostly undercooked. That’ll do it.
The children healed, shorn, washed, de-wormed and de-loused were free to help our band with the cleaning. Few children actually had the silver sickness, which made the first day somewhat easy on us.
In the evening, we had that talk with the priestesses that I wrote about, and then we talked for a long time with the village head. He didn’t rightly know what to expect from us, but well, everything was becoming clear. It’s a nice village, well-situated, and I think that there will be plenty people staying around, even if some people are coming home to their family.
The next day we did the elderly, the two days after that the middle-aged people. Lara learned how to burn the sickness as it dripped out of our patient’s armpits. Jeran and I healed some people from other sicknesses, or just from damage, like the blacksmith, whose lungs were full with scar tissue from working in the smoke all the time. He was one of the people who were really interested in looking at me, and we had him healed before he’d gotten enough of looking at me. I told him he could touch me. Nice man…
Strangely, the next day we had a patient was a woman, about his age, forty-ish, who immediately asked me about him. She wanted to know whether he was still all there, under his britches, and since I’d seen his erection, and the wet spot in his crotch, too, I could reassure her… Turns out she really, really wanted him, and hadn’t dared kiss him because she didn’t understand the sickness. She was missing quite a few fingers, which makes giving a hand-job a bit of a problem, but she’s still got the use of the rest of her body.
And a great pair of tits, too, which isn’t to strange: she told me she’d had four children, and hadn’t seen them since her husband had kicked her out of the house after she’d gotten sick with the silver sickness.
That made me write, then and there, a new law I’m going to propose to the Queen: if someone kicks out their spouse because the spouse is sick, the spouse will have the status of widow or widower and will have the full inheritance rights, immediately.
Healing is exhilarating. Making love in a meadow for an hour or so at noon is exhilarating. Teaching and learning is exhilarating. Praying to Anshen and having him come out for you is ten times as exhilarating, and now I’m sure he understands me and is just teasing me, when he kisses me on my cheek. He knows me so well… I don’t think I would ever really want him to go further, that would be really terrifying, but he allows me to keep my desire, and sometimes feeds my desire, with a little kiss, or a look.
And now we’re going to sleep for a night, a day and another night in Mialle’s village, and then we need to back up north, and find the road around the valley.
On to the next White House!