It is very hard to write when swaying in a hammock, a hammock which now and then bumps into the next hammock, or into the partition wall. There are two hammocks in what is a little room without a door in the belly of the ship, one is mine, one is Aldan’s. We’re finally on our way to Selday. And I haven’t managed to kiss commander Moyri again!
The morning I woke up in Moyri’s bed, we woke up much too early! There was no time for a reprise, because she had to do commander stuff, and Aldan and I had to go to Maile’s island. It had been a pretty grand night, and I for sure hope that Moyri’s subordinates will be in a forgiving mood today, because their commander certainly isn’t going to be at her sharpest.
In the boat to Maile’s island I mostly slept — since I hadn’t slept much, if at all, that night. So I missed most of Essle’s scenery — celebrated or notorious, I’m not sure of the right adjective. When we were close to arriving at our destination, Aldan woke me up. I had fallen asleep in his lap.
The island is a flat, muddy affair, with lots of small shacks and lean-tos built on it, out of driftwood or whatever came handy. The first person I met was a small girl, who I later learned was called Moyri too, and I asked her what she was doing. She was digging. Digging for earthworms. I asked her whether she was going to eat them, or keep them as pets, but it was clear her mind was arrested in its development, so the joke fell flat, but she earnestly told me they, that is the earthworms, were for the boys and girls who would go out and catch fish. I gave her a cuddle, and then we went on to meet Maile.
Maile is pregnant! She’s got a big bump sticking out in front, all pointy. Lochan is the father, she told us. She welcomed us, and showed us around a bit, while we talked about our missions. I gave her my copy of the New Code Book, and she gave the NBC to one of the people on her island, Serian, to copy it out, telling him it was to be done as exact as exact, because the least little error would make it useless. He took it away, eagerly!
There were two people coming out of a workshop carrying a basked of newly-crafted locks. They were going to the market to sell them; the locks were ordinary locks, so I didn’t need to get some for the place we’re going to get in Selday. Maile’s island works like this in so many ways — everyone who “washes up” on Maile’s shores get shelter, food and then figures out what work they’re good at, and starts helping out. It’s almost Ishey, except Maile’s people don’t brag at all, they just do.
I’m afraid I was a bit too gushing about Hylti and her letters, and Maile took us to their temple. This is really outside Essle. To the east of Maile’s island, there are the places occupied by the people who lived here before the Valdyans came south, or at least, that’s what I understood. And at the end of the real marsh, there are bigger islands, and on one of them is an eight-sided tower.
But such a tower! The lower half of it is made of almost translucent white stone, like alabaster or very clear marble. The upper half is of the same stone, but much weathered. Maile told us they had reconstructed the tower from stones they had found in the vicinity and that the roof, of thatch, is temporary. The temple floor is below ground level, but above the water table, which indicates the island has grown considerably since the tower was built. There was a fire burning, and Aldan and I made our prayers — this was a house of Anshen without a doubt.
Outside, we met Jeran, who is the Sagga, that is the Duyen, the lord of Essle. His family title is astin Ichalan, but he never uses it, and had endeavoured to forget it as if he were ashamed of it, until Maile came along.
He was building up his woodstack; I understood he was actually making bricks in a kiln.
We had a busy day. Maile took us out to the market where I could order my materials — sugar loaves, honey, oils and spices from a nice man, called Perain, who will be my primary supplier, and who will also make sure my letters get to Maile and the other way around. I got loads of stuff, from woodruff from the north, to ginger from the east. All of it to be delivered to the Blue Dolphin, captain Sinaya’s boat. And I took enough with me so I could make sweets for all the children on Maile’s island. And we bought four fat capons (why is everyone always writing “fat capons”, instead of just capons? capons are always fat anyway, it comes from being gelded) for the people on the island, for dinner.
Oh, we also went to a ship’s chandler, to get clothes for on board of the ship, which where were horribly stiff, but long-lasting. I’m not sure why we would need those because it’s only a week to Selday, but we got them.
In the afternoon I had a fencing match with a legless man, Morin, and he beat me! He was just sitting on a bench, and I had to sit down, too, so I couldn’t use my footwork. And then we did it again, but with semsin added.
There were going to be a lot of people for dinner, lots of people arrived with their children, and children on their own. I made a soupy stew with our capons, and sausages from their remnants. Other people had also brought food to share, and it felt a bit like a feast night.
Everything went well until Maile wanted to introduce me to a friend of hers — a Síthi Sagga woman married to a Valdyan man. I couldn’t help it, what with her being so clearly Sagga, and me being Invisible, no matter what Father’s pretensions are, there’s thousands of years of people like her not seeing people like me, and people like me being theirs, all theirs, I couldn’t bring myself to speak to her.
And then life got even more complicated, because Maile and Aldan wanted to know why I was like that, and wanted to know more about how we Síthi live in Turenay. I wish I hadn’t said so much, but I was still feeling a bit queer about Turlapati, the Sagga. I mean, Valdyans have it easy, they don’t have much history, and some of them have seen their King (!!!) put his hand under his Queen’s skirt on the kissing bridge in Turenay, even.
But Aldan has written a letter home, because I am a bit worried about Mother and sis.