When we were getting near Valdis, I tried to find the Queen. I know Raisse — she may not know me, but I do know her, she’s got three moles on her left buttock — but she was busy. There was nothing for it, but to ride through Valdis, trying to find the Royal Palace.
This turned out to be hard.
So we engaged the help of street urchin, a girl selling meadow flowers, and she brought us to the Palace. She said, she’d had her two years of schooling in the Temple of Naigha, but I felt she was wasting her life doing what is practically speaking begging. But it seemed it was her own preference, coming from a farmer’s family close to town, and that was something I’ll never be able to understand.
There’s always something better to do than begging for alms with a bunch of withered little posies in your hand.
The Palace was near, now, and I proposed my idea to Moyri. I said, “Well, since it was Crown-Prince Vurian who first saw there was something wrong in Selday, shouldn’t our first report not be to him? With his parents present, of course, but, properly speaking, he sent me.”
And Moyri agreed, so when we reached the gates, I said, “Khushi from Selday and Commander Moyri, with apprentices, to report to his Royal Highness Prince Vurian on the results of our inquiry into the irregularities in Selday.”
That led to the despatch of a page for a secretary, and some more inquiries, which in turn led to a long wait in one of the guard rooms, until it became clear why I had not been able to reach Raisse — she very clearly had been fucking her husband, the King! The King was there, as well, and then we were taken to one of the small audience rooms in their private apartments, and then the Crown Prince came in.
So, I addressed him, because this was my report, and told him how right he had been, and what we had done, and how the prisoners and witnesses would arrive shortly. His eyes were shining, and he was as proud as he should have been — it’s not every nine year old who figures out something bad is happening, takes notes and makes sure that an investigation is started! If he continues like this, he will be a fine king!
Then his milk-brother, Rovin, came in, all dusty from his work. He’s learning to design buildings, so his apprenticeship is to help building them, at first. That was a sign for all of us to go and have a bath, before dinner.
Dinner was informal, which is to say, Maile and Moryn were as embarrassed as anything, and Moyri not much less. But us, old Turenay hands, we’re used to the Royal Family unbending, so I had a chance for a really interesting conversation with General Ferin, and with the King, and it seems that not only will there be an extra regiment sent to Albetire, to find and capture and bring to Valdis Koll Konande (the King’s remarks on this person would scorch the paper), but also some extra regiments to Kushesh, where they would be on hand to either quickly move into Iss-Peran or Aumen-Sith. Athal, the King, I mean, he’s pretty angry now at K.K. having double-crossed him for the second time!!!
From there to our bedroom didn’t take long, but from arriving there to sleeping took a looooooooong time. It was actually the actual same bedroom Hylti and Arni had slept in! Of course, the sheets were clean, but I still felt like their presence was somehow there. They always sleep here, when they visit Valdis, which is about four times a year.
The next morning, I had sent our apprentices out to explore Valdis. With four shillings per apprentice in their pockets, they should have enough to feel safe to explore everywhere, and even treat new acquaintances.
Of course, Moyri and I had to visit Commander Lyse in the Castle of the Order of the Sworn, and we set out for that before we had any breakfast. Neither of us could eat, we were so nervous!
But it turned out that that wasn’t necessary. Lyse nodded, took us to the temple, where there was a short ceremony where Anshen, too, showed he was perfectly fine with me kissing one of his sworn for the rest of her or my life, and that she was unsworn, and then took us to the Spotted Dog for an early-morning pie-and-wine celebration!
The pie was marvellous, and more so since we learned it was made by a Khas woman — and the Khas, they are famous for not being able to cook at all! Throw everything into a kettle, add water, boil until mushy, then eat, that’s traditional Khas cuisine! But this was very fine, and it made me long for real civilisation: a Sithi bath, and then, with our apprentices, the best dinner Valdis could provide.
And that’s what we planned. We spent most of the afternoon in the baths. The Sithi woman running the baths had been married to a Valdyan man, a certain Faran, but he had died, not after making her pregnant with daughters half a dozen times, and they now ran the baths. She’s a former slave, so not Sagga, which helped me not getting all tensed up, and the bath was simply wonderful. The baths in Selday are okay, and all that, but not… This was true civilisation.
And we had some wine, and some Sithi dishes, and then sent out a messenger to reserve a table at the Three Kings, and I told Maile what the plans were, and they could bring one or two people more, and she told us, probably only one.
When we arrived at the Three Kings there was a young leatherworker, Aldan apparently had become an enthusiast about the trade.
When we went in, there was a bit of a misunderstanding since we obviously weren’t duyen sagga or even rich, but I dropped that we were staying with Raisse and Athal in their private apartments in the Palace, and we got our table without trouble.
I had heard from Ashti and Ferin that the ham here was the best starting dish to be had, so I ordered that, and that kind of reassured the waiter, and after that, our companions let me order the whole dinner, assuming that I knew what I was doing.
Well, how hard could it be? Of course we would have spicy stewed leg of lamb — fore-leg — now is when lambs stop being milk-fed, so they start getting some taste of their own. Four spring chickens, still too young to lay eggs, filled with fat pork mincemeat. A few salads from thinned greens. A pottage of crayfish and early turnips made smooth with fresh butter. A blancmange with almonds, milk and saffron. A mush of green peas, the first, with mint and river garlic. Pastries filled with cream and summer berries.
When I laid down the law like that, the waiter just nodded and said, “An excellently composed dinner, I’m sure, my Lady. What would her ladyship have wished to drink with the dinner?”
So I ordered last year’s cider, sweet Lenyas wine and a pint of the best dark beer for Moyri, and again he nodded, and he went.
The apprentices, all three of them, were rather stupefied by the elaborateness of the dinner, but then it turned out that…
And oh, men! You never, ever, ever can build on them! They just suck (and that’s when they’re doing their best, I mean, physically)! Moryn told us he really would like to take a place with the leather worker, as an apprentice (he doesn’t even know we’d need twelve riders to get a place for him), and also as the Guild apprentice of the leather worker!
And I was so enjoying teaching him, and seeing how he and Maile were teaching each other things. I said a lot of stupid things trying to convince him we had more to offer, but I guess… That that wasn’t so useful.
But it still feels like, well, it feels like… Well, I’m not sure what to write. I’m not completely sure what to think of it. I’ll ask Moyri, when we’re in bed tonight.