Into the Unknown
The next morning we left Lady Hinla’s village, together with our crowd and the Priestess of the neighbouring village, not the leper village as I had thought originally, and went on to the next village. It was less than a morning’s travel, so we arrived nice and early.
The contrast couldn’t have been bigger! We were welcome, everyone was cheerful, and after telling the local lord, Lord Rayin, what we had done, he was so utterly relieved! We had arrived in time for the noon meal, and Moyri and I celebrated how welcome we felt by doing our Parlor Trick; eating from one plate, drinking from one cup, holding each other and me having the spoon and Moyri the knife. In short, we ate like one person, which highly amused Corin, the son and heir to the domain.
And we enjoyed it… And I guess everyone found it kind of cute?
And after that, Moyri and I had to separate, she doing baroness stuff with Halla and the lord, and me going into the village and taking stock. Of priestesses of Naigha, and acolytes, of gifted people, and masters, of crafts, and of farms. Gauging clothes: tatters, or neat? Checking animals and the gloss or lack thereof of their coats.
Well, all was fine, in this village, except for the lack of Masters in the Guild of Anshen, and so, the lack of apprentices and journeypeople. But Corin, yes, that cheeky beggar who was so amused at my and Moyri’s antics, he was ready for the journeyman’s trial. And I decided that Moyri was going to give it to him, right after dinner. And I asked our crowd to make sure he was being “convivial” — that’s Ilaini code for drinking more than’s wise.
So, after dinner… Moyri told his father, the Lord, and his mother, the Lady, that their baby son was going to have to go through his paces! Right away, right now.
And he did. No question about it. He overcame his queasiness, headache and indispositition (is that the right word?) and went through his trial like a hot knife through butter! He’s also going to join us, to have a year or two at the Baronial Court in Selday. Good for him! He’s also as cute as cute comes, and I think I’ll have to add lessons in courtship and intimacy for our traveling school. No, scratch that, I know I’ll have to start doing that. And Jeran for the people who aren’t comfortable with cunt-kissing me telling them about boys and girls. Though Jeran also kisses cunts, or at least, one cunt. And I bet he’s never given a boy a blow-job.
After the trial, we had a bit of a party, and after that prayers, and after that a bit of a headache, so we decided to stay here for another day, and screw the schedule.
So the next day, I spent teaching the local Semti the beginnings of control of their gift, and Moyri and Halla worked on their books, Atash worked on maps, the Ishey worked on their hunting skills.
Honestly, it was a bit of a holiday, one we all needed, and me especially, after my first capital sentence. (Isn’t that a weird word? It means, sentencing people’s heads, and I guess cutting the head off is what was originally done.)
Also, we’ve been so busy for so long that we’d almost forgotten our promise to each other, Moyri and me, about being as clingy as spider web to skin to each other, and we felt so free here, that we regained that. I did notice people noticing and grinning, but all I got was that everyone felt it was cute, not shameless, so there! And I so love Moyri’s touch…
But soon, we actually had another day in Brookside, which was lovely, we went on.
From here, the roads went downhill. We were leaving the sheer chalk cliffs, and going into sand-dune territory. Everything was getting drier, and windier, and stuffier, and dustier. At the first farm, we were welcome well enough, but they warned us not to go by the old road to Dol-Rayen, because that was bad country. Better take the North Road, directly to Mera Settlement.
Of course… That was expedient, but not wise. Smart, but not right, I mean. So we divvied up. Me, Moyri, Captain Ferin, private Jeran, Geran from the horse village, Mazao went into the wilderness…
The land was arid, every bush and tree stunted, the grass dry and sharp. It looked a bit like I imagine the coast east of Sarabal looks, from the stories I heard in Turenay. There were empty houses here and there, ruins of villages. There were rabbits and hares — the hares a strange, sandy color compared to the hares I’m used to, with longer, thinner legs. And there were a lot of rather dumb walking birds, those were easy to catch. And insects… Everywhere. It never gets silent; we could hear the sea in the distance, but that was almost drowned out by the droning and chirping and buzzing. I wonder what those insects eat? Apart from us, now and then!
Oh, and the dust… It got everywhere, I couldn’t kiss Moyri without tasting dust. It wasn’t just sand; there was clay as well as a very fine red dust.
The first night we found shelter in what looked like an abandoned hut until we found stores of dried peas and things in carefully closed pots, and a goat shed in good repair. We made camp, left the peas alone, and ate the running birds.
After dinner, we took a very wide look around to see whether we could find other people. The first we found was an elderly Ishey man, and Mazao talked to him in Ishey, since he couldn’t understand my women’s Ishey — which was also strange! — and Mazao had a fit of the giggles: it was this goatherd’s hut we were camping in. We were free to take some of the peas, he was thinking of taking his herd northwards anyway, out of here, since there was less and less to eat, even for goats, and fewer and fewer people around.
Then we saw a group of people near the sea, three of them, and two out on the sea. There were two gifted people among them, and they were obviously with Anshen, a given since this is Idanyas. But not all guildspeople of Anshen are friendly, as we learned when Moyri tried to make contact. She got a mental slap! And all of us came out of our concentration, because we were linked together.
Someone slapped my wife! Who is the Baroness no less! We resolved to get up early in the morning and pay these people a visit.
So in the early morning, we went coast-wards. The breeze was nice and quite cool and salty, and there was a clear path from the hut to where we knew our “friends” were — and a quick look with semsin showed us that they were asleep.
Probably after a long night of smuggling!
We bound our horses to a bit of shrubbery near a creek with relatively sweet water, and proceeded on foot. The creek probably would be brackish when the tide goes in, but it was going out right now.
Our quarry was sleeping under cover of an upturned boat. There were nets close by and the remains of a fire. Me and Moyri and Ferin, we drew our swords, and Jeran, Geran and Mazao overturned the boat.
One middle-aged woman and four adult men of various ages suddenly woke up. We must’ve been quite frightening, with our swords and all that, and to be honest, these people looked desperately poor, wearing rags and all of them on the wrong side of starvation.
Being the sheriff and all that, I took the lead questioning them.
“I am sheriff Khushi Cheraim of all of Idanyas! Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
“Huh, are you people from the King?” was the surprising answer.
“Yes, of course, we’ve been sent by King Athal and Queen Raisse! Now answer!”
“Well, I’m Cynla, and what we’re doing, that was sleeping!”
“A likely tale,” I answered (I’ve always wanted to use that expression), “But why did you hit my wife, the Baroness of Idanyas, with semsin last night when she wanted to speak to you!”
“We don’t want any busybodies here!” the woman began, then backed up and added, “wait, your wife. Wait! The baroness???”
“Indeed!” I so wish I had a moustache, so I could curl it, but at this point Moyri took over. She asked Mazao to prepare breakfast for all of us, and things became a bit more friendly, though they were still very guarded. They were fishermen, not smugglers! The proof? There was no “merchandise” anywhere — which to me proved they were smugglers, because only smugglers need to prove they’re not, right? Beside absence of evidence is not proof of innocence!
They stayed really suspicious until I decided to swim off the breakfast — I hadn’t had a bath for a few days, the sea was close, and I wanted to know what the Sea Beings here were like.
So I told Moyri after breakfast that we were going to swim, and anyone who wanted to join us was welcome. But our people sat down in the shade of the shrub, and our “hosts” took their nets and started fixing them. There’s a special word for that in Ilaini, but I don’t know it.
I just dropped my clothes. At that point, one of the men, Seran, started looking at me, kind of hungrily. So I asked him, “Long time since you’ve seen a naked girl? Pity for you I’m married, then!”, and stuck out my tongue.
He answered, “Only once, actually,”
And then he was hushed into silence by Cynla, “Don’t talk about that! You raped the girl, and you know that!”
He looked a bit shame-faced, and then turned away from me. I started thinking, but then and there, there was a breeze, it was nice and warm and the sea looked pretty safe, even though it was ebb; this part of the coast is very shallow, with lots of sand bars, and we weren’t going far enough in to really swim anyway.
And there were Sea Beings! We were dancing with them pretty soon, and they were happy, and recognized us; I think all Sea Beings have one mind, or something like that? In any case, they knew Moyri had sworn to protect their waters… And now that I think of it, they might be helping with that, because the sea wasn’t blighted like the land.
There were crabs, shrimp, fishes, sea plants, the water was gorgeously clean, every drop felt alive.
When we were clean, we felt the Sea Beings being eager: “are you going to do the close to each other thing?” I could feel them asking us in our minds, and sure, why not? No better way to convince these people we were harmlessly eccentric, so we made love in the sea, in the spray, ending up covered with foam we had to wash off.
I’m already rather uninhibited, I guess, and in this case, there was nothing weird about these Sea Beings wanting us to make love, I felt. They just wanted to bask in our warmth, as if it were, like as if they were… I don’t know. Maybe it was making them feel sure of us, maybe it’s their way of recognizing us, maybe it’s something we cannot fathom.
But it felt right, and when we came, a wave splashed all over us, and we had to laugh.
And then we went back to our people. Our “hosts” were flabbergasted, and our people went to the water line to check up on the Sea Beings, dipping their toes in the water, as it were.
So we talked some more, and yes… This Seran did rape a girl, in a village not too far from here. He complained Cynla beat him black and blue for it, and he started giving excuses, like, she was bathing in a brook, and when she saw me, she didn’t hide, but stood up and showed him her loveliness.
I’m not going to hang him right now, but, yes, this needs mulling over.
And more importantly, it was becoming clear to me and Moyri that we needed to get everyone who has remained here out of this area.
So, we had a very long and difficult discussion, about them really having to give up living here; we agreed to meet again more to the West, they would travel by boat, and we would go over land. They knew where the next group of people was living; a single farm with only a few people.