Saddle-sores and sling-shots
We waved the boating party goodbye — there were two boats — and then the ferry brought us over to the other side of the Valda. Coming down to Essle, we had taken the east bank of the Valda, but the west bank has a much better road and more inns and travel huts. We took our time getting Moryn used to his first horse. Fortunately he wasn’t afraid of horses! And the liveryman had selected the most placid animals for us — six mares and one gelding, the pack horse.
Soon, we were on our way. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze, the river was beautiful and the road in a fine state, and not too busy. Moryn commented on how weird everything smelled to him, but mostly he was busy holding on to his horse.
After an hour or two, we rested and watered the horses, and rested ourselves, too, rubbing ointment on the insides of our legs and between our legs. Moryn and Maile were off exploring the river bank and the forest, leaving Moyri and me some petting time!
After an hour, we continued, for another two hours, and then it was time for another break, a longer one. I prepared food, while the rest took care of the horses. Only one horse had a stone in its shoe, and we had the right tool with us, like the well-prepared travelers we are.
I wanted to give our legs a bit more rest, and we gave the horses some oats to eat. Moryn and Maile asked whether they could go for a swim in the little cove near the field where we had put the horses, and since both claimed to be able to swim, there was no objection. Especially not since the field was screened by hedges, and the sun was warm, and neither Moyri nor I had already developed any soreness of the cunt… So we first made love, and then we slept in each other’s arms, until loud voices woke us up.
Note, we weren’t alarmed, but it sounded like Maile and Moryn had picked up some company. That was correct: a boy and a girl had joined our apprentices in the cove. Maile explained that they lived in a farm a bit further up — we had actually had lunch in one of their hay-fields. And that this was indeed the Official Swimming Cove of the farm. I was tempted to stay here and ask whether we could sleep at the farm, but it really was too early not to travel for another couple of hours.
After all, we‘re supposed to be the advance party!
So, another two hours of sitting in the saddle while the horse, we were sore, and we halted and made camp for the evening. There was a small hut, quite clean, a rubbish hole and a woodpile. Moryn went to replenish the wood, Moryn to fetch water from a creek, Maile and I rubbed down the horses. Pretty soon we had food for ourselves, too, and then it was time for some more lessons.
I think I’m actually turning into quite a decent teacher! And I like it. I like figuring out when something happens that will make the lesson stick. After the lessons, Maile and Moryn went out to catch a rabbit or a hare — Moryn actually knew how to make a sling from rat skin! And that’s another thing that Maile could learn from Moryn.
And when they came back with some nice fish for breakfast (which surprised me, since they were going for rabbits, but I don’t pass on nice, fresh bream) it was time for the final lesson of the day: prayers to Anshen the Valdyas, the Sithi and then the Iss-Peranian way.
Moryn was livid that this is something that men cannot learn — and, to be honest, I don’t know why they cannot learn it, but then, I also don’t know why men cannot learn to menstruate or bury the dead. It’s just one of those things they’ll have to accept.
Well, Moyri had seen me dance before, and I had danced with Maile, and after doing the short form of the dance proper, I gave them some lessons. At least Moryn couldn’t (and didn’t) complain about the view! It’s really awesome that Moyri and I are the same height, because that means we can, one day, do the full form of the dance for Dayati!
Traveling this way is delightful! Every day brought new scenery, fresh impressions, chances to learn and chances to make love. It was so awesome to see how well Moryn has turned out, given that he’s grown up in a rookery with a bunch of other children, all thieves, almost none of them ever having seen the inside of a temple of Naigha. (All of them illiterate, the Queen is going to throw a tantrum if Moryn hasn’t his letters by the time we get to Valdis, but he’s well on his way.) Though there was one older girl, one of the ones who were “fucking all the time” according to Moryn (which I guess can now also be fairly said of me and Moyri), who told the younger children the stories of the Gods. And taught them to say Anshen, instead of using the name of the Nameless.
After six days, though, we really were developing saddle sores. I had given everyone a massage with semsin, oil and my hands every morning, so we could at least stand up and walk and mount our horses, but by now we were in need of real rest. We had passed the boats on the second day, so we knew we were ahead.
And, I guess it’s not surprising, most people will want to take a rest after six days of travel, there was a big inn ahead.
“A bath. I want a hot bath! A bath!” Moyri said in ecstasy, and we for the first time we made our horses walk faster than an easy amble. Within half an hour, we had the horses in the hands of a stable-hand, our packs unloaded, clean clothes in our arms, and were on the doorstep, where we were met by a big, handsome woman in her forties.
“Loves! Welcome to the Black Swan! What can I do for you?”
“Well, our horses are already stabled — we want a bath, food and shelter!”
“Good thing for you this is an inn, then!” she answered with a grin. “Arin! Go and start heating the bath water!”
From the depths of the inn a groan came, which we interpreted as an attempt at “Yes, Mother.”
“I’ve only got one room left, a small one. Maybe–”
Maile and Moryn interrupted, “Can we go in the hay loft?”
I grinned, “If you want to — sure! Hay lofts are extremely comfortable. At least, I’ve always found them so. My last night in Turenay was spent in a hay loft, with Arin, the stable-hand of the Guild School.”
When we had washed our hair, ourselves and each other, and dried up, I put on my doctor’s manner (which means, I put the bag with our travel pharmacy on the table) and made everyone stand with their legs a yard apart, and started looking for sores and other problems.
Maile had some very nasty insect stings, and I used the heated-cup method to get the sting out; that worked perfectly and was very easy. Some ointment, and everything was for the best again. Moryn really did have saddle sores, and I gave him a different ointment, to put on them. Moyri and me, we were only a tiny bit sore, and rubbed each other with the right salve. Then, clean clothes, the dirty clothes given to the laundress with four shillings, and out to the courtyard, where we had seen tables and benches.
There was a lovely, no, delectable, smell coming from the kitchen, and soon there was enough food on the table to satisfy even Moryn and Maile. Moyri kept putting little morsels on my plate, teasing me a bit. But I think she really is worried I don’t eat enough — maybe she got scared by the two-and-a-half-khushi of gold and silver joke in the temple? I know it would have only been one-and-a-third Moyri, for I have lifted my love, more than once.
We decided to stay here for at least another day, maybe two, so Moryn’s sores could start healing. We had a really nice discussion with a certain Rovan, who was on his way to Essle. He was, so very clearly, a Guild Runner, Anshen of course, and I asked him whether he had letters for me and Aldan. He had one, but it was a circular sent by Hylti, so it was in code, of course, and our code-book is in Selday. I re-sealed the letter with a quick update for Aldan (big) included, and then decided it was time for more lessons. This time, it was herbology, and Maile and Moryn continued after the lesson was done they went on writing down names of plants. Moryn is also going to need his own Naigha’s book!
When the apprentices had gone to bed, or at least, had gone away, we had a good, long talk with Rovan. Rovan and Moyri knew each other, of course, and had a lot to talk about. I was, I admit, a bit too lazy to pay too much attention, and with a cup of green wine, and my head against Moyri’s shoulder, I just lazed the evening away.
When we went to bed, I suddenly realized why I felt so strangely happy. I haven’t been afraid, not even fleetingly, of getting a beating since we set foot on the quay in Essle!
Telling that gave me a very satisfying cuddle, but since we really were a bit sore, we went to sleep instead.
Tomorrow, the apprentices are going to take care of themselves! They want to go out hunting, and exploring. And we, well, the inn keeper has promised a basket with food, a jar with wine and has given me directions to a secluded place where Moyri and I can spend most of the day, doing as and what we want.