The Feast of Naigha — Nahasagga — is close. It was already close when we had the Banquet in the White House, of course, but it’s closer now, and between then and now, it feels like there’s been weeks! But it was only days. Still, we’ve managed to get into a routine, a rut, a schedule — what do you call it when you just know what you’re going to do, and know why you’re going to do it, and have managed to fit all your duties around three healthy love-making sessions a day?
Because that’s how it works. We haven’t done anything weird… Though when we painted each other with charcoal/linseed oil ink the day before the banquet, and made each other look like Ashti. And I showed Moyri how I used to diddle myself when I was much younger, in the outhouse, because that was the only place where I was alone when I was a kid. (I only got a bed to myself when I started bleeding…)
But life is life, and life is good! Moyri is actually so happy she surprised me the other night telling me she never was unhappy when in the order! And that flies right in the face of the facts, because she was, and she’d told me so, before, but now she’s so happy, she cannot imagine ever having been unhappy.
Maile and I are restocking the shop, and preparing deliveries and figuring out new recipes. Moyri and I never let go of each other when we are together, and we’re forever having to pull down skirts and pull up shirts because we cannot stop trying to get at each other when we’re together. And we’re still doing a ton of work, too.
Like, this morning, when I came back from my training session, Moyri was back from hers, and she was already deep into her paperwork. I sat down on her left side, took her left hand, rubbed her buttocks with my other hand and we kissed, then discussed the paperwork. Then we had breakfast — that Maile and Moryn had very capably prepared. And then we fucked in our bedroom, while the apprentices where cleaning up.
Poor apprentices! By rights, we should have cleaned up, but they didn’t mind.
And then the day started. Honest, I am determined to make love with Moyri at least three times a day; less than that and it would feel like I’m neglecting her. But… She was waist-deep in paperwork, and I had to shift a lot of it before I could tickle her belly and kiss her between her legs, and she so needs a clerk! And an office. The kitchen table just doesn’t cut it, for baronial duties.
So I said, “Moyri, sweet, squishy, soft, moist love of mine, shouldn’t I get a clerk for you?”
And she answered, with some trouble, because her bottom was distracting her a bit, “But we already have Seran, haven’t we? And can we afford another clerk?”
Well, I’m not above begging, and if push comes to shove, I’m sure Raisse will send us more money, if needs be, from the City, so I said, “We’ll have to. Let’s also think of taxes.”
At that point, not entirely unexpectedly, Moyri became incoherent, and after kissing her and telling her I’d take care of it, I went down to wash the wetness out of my hair.
Before I left the Pink House, though, she called out to me and told me, “Get Halla! I can work with Halla!”
Well, that was clear! So I went down to the Guard’s House to see whether there was any sheriffing to do, but there wasn’t, and from there to the Temple of Micalacuk^WMizran. I asked for Erian. the Mighty Servant, because, well, this was poaching another of his journeypeople, so Merain, who is much cuter, not to say smarter, didn’t have authority.
I told him the Baroness wanted Halla sent up to the Pink House ASAP as personal clerk to the Baroness — and he sputtered and spattered and spittered and dithered, so I just told Halla myself. Then…
“My dear young lady, I hope you realize that you’re leaving this Temple seriously short-handed!” he said.
“Well, then get more hands. Haven’t we got a disemployment problem here in this town? What about the rest of Idanyas? How about looking for some more candidates? I’ll tell you this, and nothing else, but we’re going to need more clerks to admin this poor, neglected province!”
He spluttered, and I had to be very firm with him! I actually got really pissed with him! Actually, at him telling me that the town didn’t have enough suitable candidates for apprentice positions in his fucking temple, while I — well, Maile and Moryn — had just found four really smart people in the upper town — I kind of really pissed myself, I was so pissed off. And I told him to go and find smart kids and train them up, now, and I walked away.
I think there’s no chance at all that Mighty Servant Erian and I will ever become cuddle-buddies. No, no chance at all.
Still, he got the message, and when I walked away he uttered promises he’d find people from that quarter to help him out.
Well, I guess squalls like that are kind of stimulating? In any case, when I came home with food for the noon meal, I felt like kissing Moyri all over, only Halla was there, tabulating things that need to go into tables, and listing things that need to go into lists, and smiling at how Moyri had lifted my skirt up to my tits, and had started kissing me between my legs… And then Moyri realized I was really, really angry, and we talked about it, without sending Halla away, and Halla sneered when I mentioned Erian. Apparently, he’s not everybody’s favourite. And then Moyri and I made love some more.
We have to keep in mind the goal: the people of Idanyas need to think that we’re cute, not that we’re shameless… But. It’s so hard to keep off each other. Will that ever change? Right now, I’m wiping Moyri’s wet out of my eyes, into my mouth, while I’m writing my report with other hand. Um…
So, that afternoon, Maile and I worked like crazy in the workshop. She really gets it — the idea of making good sweets. That it should be a treat, that it should be clean, that it should be surprising, that it should be familiar, that… She’s also got good ideas for new lines, so we really had fun!
Where are the guilds here in this wretched town! It looks like nobody is organized in a guild! And the most conspicuous by its absence is the Guild of Anshen. Where are they!!! I mean the other masters. We’ve got eight students now in our evening Semsin class!!! EIGHT!!!
We have semsin lessons every night!
I have to admit that there are the Day of Anshen celebrations that happen in people’s private homes, where neighbours get together, and that’s something local to Selday, or Idanyas — need to keep in mind that Selday is the trash-can of Idanyas, so whatever gets washed up here is looked down upon by the Rhydinate, and looks down upon the rest of the barony. We join those celebrations, of course, but now Moyri is baroness, it’s kind of harder.
There should be a temple for Anshen here…
And there definitely should, and will, be a temple for Dayati, once my friends from Veray, from the Sithi baths arrive. Three Sithi makes a temple, no doubt about that! It would be good to have place for Dayati, other than in my cellar workshop, where the Iss-Peranian statue is now standing in a nice niche and gets fresh flowers every day.
Yes! This place is so strange: there are flowers in the middle of winter! Plenty! I like that actually. I wonder what life in the City must be, it’s still farther to the south, maybe there isn’t even something like seasons over there, only wet and dry times.
This is a pretty wet time, though. I don’t mind. We’ve gone out in the garden to make love in the downpour more than once. The chickens don’t like it, but it’s fun, and besides, it’s so rainy and gray that none of the neighbours can see us making love. I wouldn’t mind, but still, cute, not shameless is the reputation we want.
Cynla is off now, painting the coastline. She told me that she wanted to go now, and be back in time for the Feast of Timoine, because after that, it’s wedding time for lots of people, and she’s talked to the other painters in town how making wedding portraits like Moyri and I have could be a good earner. Only the inside of the portraits would be left empty to add children, instead of cunts (or penises, I guess, there are also men who marry). Our portraits are now bound in silk and leather, silk to protect the paintings, leather for sturdiness, with a little clasp to make sure people don’t accidentally open it and stumble upon our cunts.
Though coming in through the kitchen door would give anyone a fair chance to do just that.
I told the people from the Nautical School and the people from the Hospital to go down into town and get some shipyard workers for all the woodwork they need — benches, tables, cots, beds, chairs — but I’m not sure they got the message. Seran did, I’m sure, because that’s what Maile and Moryn are telling me, but for Micalacuk’s sake! We have, I learned today we have three hundred out of work people who don’t have a penny to spend on food in our town! At least! Nobody has counted them! Well, the counting is going to happen.
It happened like this.
We had our morning love-making session, and then I had gone up the mountain to fight, then had breakfast with the Iss-Peranian brothel madam — I sold her own new line of red, sweet bodypaint — and then I continued my sheriff round through town and ended up the Guard House. And this time they had a prisoner for me!!!
I was elated at the news, finally something to do, until I heard what his crime was. He had stolen two fishes. That’s not so dastardly… But I went to interrogate the vile bandit, who turned out to be a scrawny man, about forty years old. He told me he had taken two fishes, but that they were rejects thrown away by the fisherman, barely good enough to make soup from. But the fisherman had caught him, and handed him to the Guard.
So I asked him his name, which was Arin, his age, which was “about forty”, his address, which was “up the hillside, in the shack near the Temple of Naigha, if you go into the little alley where Faran has his bottle shop”, and his profession, which was, shipyard-hand, only there wasn’t work for him anymore — and finally his descent, which was Idanyas. Unmarried, no children, two house mates, both also out of work, the fish he’d shared with them, and would be in their pot now.
I asked the sergeant of the watch to fetch the house mates.
One of them was an older man, around fifty — he didn’t look very intelligent, but he was pretty sick with hunger, from the look of him. I noticed no smell of wine or beer on his breath, though I did notice a strong smell of sweat, urine and faeces on him, as well as on his house-mates. The constable who had fetched them confirmed their house was little more than boards, probably stolen from the shipyard, leaning against a bigger house, and their house had no chimney. His name was Torin, and he was from Idanyas as well.
The other person was a younger man, mid-twenties, obviously intelligent, also emaciated and scruffy-looking. He also reeked high to reach Naigha’s mantle, and he was gifted, but completely untrained! His name was Coran, and he was from Idanyas as well, and explained that when he had a choice between learning how to build ships and learning how to pull kids out of pregnant goats, he preferred a ship, thank you very much.
So I asked them about their circumstances, whether they could read and write (no, no and yes for the three of them), and how many others were in similar problems. The two older men said, “many!”, the younger one said “at least two hundred, maybe two-fifty.”
I know, stealing is wrong. But I could see, smell even, the despair of these men. Even Coran, young, gifted, he thought he had no chance whatsoever. There are no guilds in this town, but the masters only take people they know, and only the shipyard had taken all comers. And it was only going to become smaller…
There’s no way I’m going to let Selday become something like Essle, with families who live from generation to generation from begging, stealing and scrounging! Micalacuk wants us to become skilled, useful and prosperous, and that’s what we’re going to make happen. Later that night, I discussed this with Moyri, and she already was making plans similar to mine.
But I did something myself, too.
After talking to these men, I asked the Guard to bring the accuser, the fisherman. He told me that, no, it wasn’t a refuse heap, it was the heap with the third-rate fish, the cheapest fish, at two pennies a pound, for the poor.
It pleased me that he was thinking of the poor, but two pennies was, as Coran argued, one more than the three of them had together. I think the town needs to come together and learn to help each other, and there was no reason for the fisherman to ask two pennies; he gets the fish for free from the sea, doesn’t he? He doesn’t pay for the right to fish, he only has to do the work and maintain his boat. And the twopenny fish, he isn’t paying for the work, the boat or his own food from that, it’s just a bit extra.
So I decided Moyri needed to talk to the fishermen’s council about providing free or very cheap fish for the out-of-work, and I paid the fisherman two pennies for his fishes — he claimed it was two pounds of fish, but Coran said it was barely half a pound, but — pennies! And we have so much food on our table, three times a day!
And then I sent up the two older men back to their home and told Coran he was hired. He’s the Baroness’s Clerk for Work. It’s his job to talk to the people who have work that needs to be done, and get it for the people he knows who don’t have work, and he can give a shilling a day to every adult who is out of work out of the baronial pocket, and I need to clear that with Halla, and maybe write Raisse to send extra funds this way, from the City, oh, my head hurts!
So I took Coran to the baths, and we bathed, and he very properly got an erection when he saw me, and I very primly looked away while he took care of that — but it pleased me to know men still find me attractive, that’s for sure. I sometimes do long for… But that’ll come when we start trying to get pregnant! Coran is plenty cute, too, now he’s clean, shaven, his hair cut, his nails done. Like most people here, he’s a red-head, with freckles, and still shows he must’ve been really strong when he worked in the shipyard.
Then we went to the Temple of Mizran, to take care of his official appointment, and to make sure Mighty Servant Erian coordinated finding apprentice clerks with the Clerk for Work.
And then I took Coran home, where we gave him dinner, and then our crowd of apprentices arrived, and we did semsin lessons, starting from the beginning again, and then I shooed everyone out.
I told Moyri I had agreed with the builder, Serla, that she’d come and see about putting two extra pink stories on the Pink house, and closing up the balcony for an office, with windows that can open so it’s cool in summmer… And then I gave Maile and Moryn the big atlas —
Wait, I forgot to write about that. Have I written about the Feast of Naigha? I guess not. Let me note that down first.
I went to visit her holiness, the chief priestess of Naigha, two days ago. I wanted to know what the Baroness and me could and should do for the Temple, and what we as a family should do. It turns out that the temple needs food that stays edible for a long time, and lots of things for the Temple School. And that the barony could give that. And that we personally could give something as well. And that it would be very good if the Baroness would be seen, when the Temple was at its busiest, to visit and offer, and that we could offer as well.
— I guess my dad’s due a lock of my hair —
And then we should have a nice meal with just the four of us, and, I had asked Moryn beforehand, there was no need for him to come to an understanding with one of younger priestesses who had just started to bleed this year, since they all had found a nice boy of their own age already. Which was good to hear. There are still places in Valdyas where the holly is bound to the door at the Feast, and where the priestesses have to enter the first house with holly they encounter.
To have only one fuck a year, and then with a random stranger! Sometimes the Gods are so cruel!
And I went home, and Maile and I started planning a really nice, sweet treat for our priestesses, Moryn gave a happy sigh that he wouldn’t be called upon, and I went to Ram, to ask about books and slates and barrels of meat, butter, fish and peas. We had a bit of a cuddle for old time’s sake, and as a promise for when babies were going to be a matter of course, and a glass of wine and some food, and then he found me this box… Unclaimed for five years. And in it was an endless amount of parchment, so easy to scrape and re-use, a dozen slates and five books. Three of stories, perfect for the Temple School, and an atlas, huge!, and a book on astronomy. Perfect for the nautical school!
I bought all of it, and had the box delivered to the Pink House.
So, I gave Maile and Moryn the atlas, that evening, after dinner and lessons, and soon they were deep into its mysteries, while Moyri and I were making love in a corner in the kitchen. Half-way through, I asked Moyri, “Love… Has it come to this, that we’re making love, naked, with all the sounds and everything, in the same room as our apprentices, who don’t pay us any attention?”
And she said, with a few soft moans in between, “Yes, but I think they’re going upstairs now.”
And so they did, after having closed the atlas, and put it back in the box. They said good-night, and we said goodnight, and also went to bed, after closing up and sealing, and taking care of the fire.
We also have this plan, and it’s going to happen day after tomorrow, to count everyone in town. Maile and Moryn and our other apprentices have found plenty of mates, and they’re going house by house, and will make a list of everyone. Name, sex, married/friends/single, gifted, in work.
But tomorrow, Moyri and I will take a day off, and make love up on the mountain. It looks like rain again! The rain here is so warm…
Today, Jilan also introduced his mum to us. I had heard scritchings in the straw in our pallet, and I suddenly realized that we hadn’t replaced the straw for weeks. I woke up in the morning spooning Moyri and instead of whispering what I was going to do with her buttocks, I whispered, we need to get a house-keeper. And she agreed and then asked to be informed about my plans for her buttocks.
So, we discussed hiring a housekeeper at breakfast time. She would have to accept that all of us, except for Moyri like to cook regularly, and that we’d have a wide and varied guest list, and that we wouldn’t appreciate comments on our goings-on, nor appreciate discussion of what we’re up to when when we’re at home outside the house.
And in the evening, Jilan brought Tylse, his mum. She’s past thirty, I think, maybe even past forty, and she’s had a bunch of children already. I put it to her plain and clear: Moyri and I would behave scandalously inside the house whenever it would please us. We needed someone to maintain the house, do the beds, keep staples in stock, clean up when it wasn’t time for the apprentices to put in some elbow grease — and to accept us just as we are, as well as our apprentices and anyone else we might bring in, like cats bring mice to the kitchen door.
She nodded brightly, and started making our bedroom clean, fresh and inviting.
I also had the big grown-up talk with Moryn and Maile. It’s really time they really know what boys and girls do with each other (and one another, too, of course). So I took them to our bedroom, first showed the inside of Cynla’s painting of us, to show them how much difference there is between people.
I gave them a thorough lesson in male and female anatomy, and in what pleases men and women, and how varies from person to person. I am not a whore, I never took money, only pleasure, and I’ve seen a lot… And I like a lot of different things myself, so I could reassure them that whatever they felt themselves, it probably wouldn’t be too weird to talk about with me.
I showed them the Iss-Peranian tools that Moyri and I use when I want something more solid than a bunch of fingers in me — and I explained what had happened to me, and what yes and no means, and why it’s important to keep that in mind, and that, yes, I had taken care that I owned, and knew, and loved all of my body before my father started staking out his claim to my behind.
Maile, who now had spent a whole night with Jeran, doctor Varyn’s journeyman, talking and cuddling, she took it all in her stride, and was more like, well, this is useful knowledge? Not sure when I’m going to use it, but I feel a lot more certain about some things now.
Moryn was a bit more thoughtful. I asked him if there was something the matter, but he said he needed to think, and that he’d talk to Maile first. Well, fair enough.
And then we took our day off and took blankets and oilcloth and lunch and climbed up to the cliff, and found a little hillock where we started making love. It began really well, but…
I made a bit of a mistake. Not everything was a mistake, but… I wanted to repeat the trick I’d done in Essle, and made milk for my Moyri to drink from my breasts. I got the idea because she was sucking really, really hard on my nipples, which, I guess, made all the blood leave my brain for my genitals, and then I repeated that trick.
The trick that lets you, with a bit of massage, a bit of semsin and someone sucking your nipples, make the milk come, even if you haven’t got a baby. It’s Queen Asa who taught me the trick, she figured it out so she could feed the babies they find up north, in the Temple of the Mother, real milk, not sheep’s milk, which is bad for babies.
And it came, it came hard! My breasts started swelling up, and Moyri couldn’t get enough milk out, and it became really painful!
We had to go down, and ask Coran whether he knew someone with a baby without a mother, because it was getting really awful!
So when we got home, there was a man, roughly cleaned up by Coran, and a baby, his, he said. “This is my son Arin, I’m Arin too. His mum died a month after he was born, infection, or something. He’s had goat’s milk ever since, but he’s getting much, much too thin on it. He’s two months now. He’ll die, won’t he?”
“Give him! Please, give him to me!” I moaned, because my shirt was getting really cheesy, and still the pressure didn’t let up.
He was a bit dubious, but Moyri pulled off my shirt, and I took hold of Arin, and oh! Babies are so much better at sucking than grown-ups! When he’d emptied one breast, I gave him the other, and he emptied that one, and then I put him back onto my left breast. We were all alone, the two of us together, even though there were other people in the kitchen.
Moyri was talking to big Arin, and to Coran, and our apprentices came in, and Halla and Moyri started making food, and I was feeding, feeding, feeding.
Well, this is one trick I won’t do while making love anymore! A good lesson for me, young-knows-all-about-men-women-and-their-tricks sheriff Khushi the archi-dandar from the City.
Which is one of the things I told Moryn when he came downstairs after having had a long talk with Maile in Maile’s room. We’d heard them talk, while I was suckling Arin in our bed, and Moyri was kissing me between the legs. Making love while having a baby at your breast feels very good… I cannot wait to have babies of our own. And though I would prefer daughters, Arin is very cute. He did wake me up in the middle of the night, though, and I went out to the kitchen to find something to eat, and Moryn had come down, too, to find something to eat, so I fed Arin, and Moryn fed the two of us, and we talked again.
Moryn was rather relieved to hear that I make mistakes, too, when making love, and he talked about the people he’d known in Essle, who had started cuddling, then making love with each other, then selling their bodies, and how, for him, all of that had always seems kind of — dirty? — that’s probably the word we couldn’t find. And then he met us, and he had to learn how for Moyri and me, it’s games, it’s fun, it’s pleasure, it’s light and life and — just like me before Aldan had explained to me, he didn’t understand love, and now he saw that, too. We had a good talk, we really had, and I so love these children of ours. But he’s not so sure of himself, and I suggested he would start just figuring things out about his own body, to start with, before trying to figure whether he liked boys, girls or both.
When I got back in bed, Moyri woke up a bit, and I told her about the talk Moryn and me had, and she nodded, sleepily, and said, “what have we ever done, to deserve these awesome people in our family?” And fell asleep again.
But it looks like we’ll have at least one extra guest for now. Because Moryn’s Jilan provided a cot, and Arin, very properly, didn’t want to go home, but wanted to stay with his son, his first one, too. Day after tomorrow, it’s the Feast… I guess I’ll also cut a hank of hair for Rava, Arin’s birth mother.
But first the Great Counting.