Travel Diary of Khushi Cheraim, 2

They’re getting to know each other!

Written in the house of Jeran, by the light of my own anea.

This morning we left Turenay! We first went to Master Mernath’s workshop, to collect my sword and knife. He even had a sheath for me. Cynla’s girlfriend, Halla, was opening the shutters of the butcher’s where she works, and I surprised everyone by buying a small barrel of salted bacon. Had they not seen that I’d eaten of the pie last night, which had meat in it? At home, we don’t eat meat, of course, it’s forbidden, as is walking over the head of another person by mounting to the first floor of a house. Have I not been in the library at school, which is on the third floor?

Really, people should use their eyes, memory and mind before they declare themselves surprised.

Well, with sword, knife, scabbard and bacon, we went to the West Gate. At the West Gate Mother, Baran and Bachche were waiting for me! Hugs and kisses and tears! And Mother had brought me a packet with sweets to take with me, too. Outside the gates, we first mounted our mounts. I had been brave and claimed I knew how to ride, but all I had ever done was sit on once or twice on an Ishey donkey and let it carry me up to the Ishey house. But we’d had instructions from Arin, the stablehand, and the horses were friendly and maybe even docile.

It was raining a bit, so we donned our Ishey blankets, and with the pack horse following my horse, the road was wide enough that we could ride side by side, and we didn’t dare go fast, at least not on the first day, so we had time to get to know each other better.

So I learned he’d never ever had been to bed with a man or a woman, and about his mum and sister, and he learned I don’t exactly remember, unless I take my diary and go through it, with whom exactly I’ve been to bed. Which is weird, he’s Valdyan, and… Well, sleeping around is maybe my most Valdyan side, apart from my allegiance to Anshen. Which is there, but there’s also Dayati.

Anyway… By mid-day we had thoroughly embarrassed each other, so we stopped to let the horses drink, but not too much and have lunch ourselves, bread filled with bacon. Then a little deer appeared, and I had a bow and arrows… But I never learned to hunt, and I guess I won’t.

Shortly before nightfall we were thoroughly done for. My bottom felt like the first time I had allowed a boy use of both front and back entrance. It was fun, back then, but hurt a bit… Well, this felt like the same kind of hurt, but much, much, much more so! And my poor legs! It was all I could do to stagger around and prepare pancakes with bacon and pease porridge for dinner, after I had taken all the packs off the horses’ backs, and told Aldan how to brush the horses.

I’ve also told him to tell me if I get to be too bossy, and I hope he believes me, that I want to be told, because, well, being bossy is very much me on my Síthi side.

Dinner was fine, he ate everything I gave him, so that’s promising, and we were both in too much pain for me to even suggest doing more than sleep. Aldan doesn’t snore, I’ll give him that!

Better even, and something I didn’t know about, is that he wanted to do prayers before going to sleep. We did the invocations together, and that felt good!!!

Next morning, we did the invocations in Síthi, but, of course, only for Dayati and Nahasagga. Anchuk and Anasagga are too far away, here in Valdyas. Strange, how the Gods can be close or far, similar or different, getting mingled together or apart. That they are with us, well, that I do know.

Dear Dayati, keep your arm around my shoulders and don’t desert me. Nahasagga, be merciful when the end comes, when it comes. Anshen, I will serve you as a love-lorn knight, and I will fight for your cause, because it is not only just, but merciful. Sorry, Mizran, I don’t think you and I will ever have much to do with each other, but Micalacuk, there will always be place for you at my table. Mother — maybe…

In any case, after praying I made a semsin seal, and we slept, on a ledge in the shelter that I had prepared with a our large blanket, under our Ishey blankets as close to each other as possible, because it’s cold, still, before the Festival of Dayati.

The next morning, we did the invocations of Dayati and Nahasagga in Síthi, washed ourselves and went on. It was incredibly painful! But we are Guild Runners on a mission, so against seemingly unsurmountable odds, we persevered, and survived into the late afternoon, when we dropped dead near another shelter, pulled ourselves together, cared for the horses, had food, invocations and sleep…

The day after that, that was a bit easier. We knew we were getting close to the inn that’s nominally two days away from Turenay, but in our world, at least four days away. That evening we had a companion, a carter on his way to Turenay. We shared our food with him, and he shared his brandy with us, which was a mixed blessing. I also fought some rounds at fencing with him. But he was nice! And in the morning, he also shared his pickled beetroot with us, for breakfast. He did warn us about Halfway Inn, that there were robbers, thieves, brigands, footpads and highwaymen around that inn. That sounded scary, and when he had gone in the morning we looked, for the first time, in the purses Lady Rava had given us. At least a hundred riders for each of us! Maybe even more…

Eeek.

Well, at least we could afford a nice room and a nice dinner.

So when we arrived at Halfway Inn early in the afternoon, I gave my best Sithi Sagga impression and ordered care for your horses, guards for our pack, a good room, hot baths and no dilly-dallying about it. We got all of that, in that order, and the room was fine. (When we entered it, I thought, maybe we should have had two rooms, one for Aldan so he wouldn’t have to share the bed with me, and one for me, in case there was somebody around I liked and who liked me, but we had only one room.)

The baths were fine as well, and when I did my Síthi Sagga act again, there was an old woman who could shave my legs, cunt and armpits, so I could feel civilized again, for real. There were two tubs, one for me and Aldan, and in the other one, a wiry, old, must be almost thirty or even over, man was resting. We got into conversation with him, and he said he was Jichan, late from the King’s army, and on his way to Turenay, a sergeant. I asked him to fight with me, and he agreed.

He had nice leathers to protect him, but I didn’t have any, so I borrowed his. I must have been ridiculous! A short skirt and a leather jerkin that came to my knees! But it was an awesome fight! I even managed to side-step him and make him stumble, so the fight was mine, and the cost of the dinner his!

During dinner, he explained his family was from Idanyas, Dol-Rayen, but he wasn’t born there, just like I might be Síthi, but wasn’t born there. Still, he was Sagga, as the Valdyans count that, a scion of the House of Rhydin. He also wasn’t interested in man nor woman, but we learned a lot about Idanyas, before Aldan and I went up to our bed. So, after all, it didn’t matter that we hadn’t got separate rooms.

Everything was in pear-pie order the next morning, with washing water brought up, breakfast provides, horses and pack safe and sound, so soon enough Aldan and I were on the road again.

From here, we would have to take the first south road at the first road fork we’d see. I did have all Hylti’s writings in my memory, but it was tricky all the same. But we did it!

The first village south o the Turenay-Valdis road we entered was very clearly the everyone-cheats-everyone village Hylti had described, where she had traced the infection vectors of sexually transmitted diseases at her first visit through triangulating the date of infection and doing numbers on that. I felt really interested, especially when we spotted the first data points in the field!

They sent us to the Temple of Nahasagga, which was tended by an ancient, ancient, ancient priestess. We offered to help her as much as we could, Aldan cleaning the temple and the house, and I updating records in her book in my best handwriting, and cooking. Aldan started to complain about the pancakes, but I don’t understand why? Pancakes are a great substrate to put any kind of filling on, and make it easy to eat while reading, after rolling them into substance-filled tubes.

Anyway, the priestess liked them. And we had a nice, quiet night, and on the morrow we left.

But the villagers had told us lots of scary stories about the forest east of the village — about monsters and ghosts and things. And I was thinking of highwaymen instead, so we kept a careful look-out, and we saw people in the forest, but they didn’t seem to be coming our way, so… We reached the next village without trouble!

Here we found shelter with a man from our guild, the Guild of Anshen, called Jeran. He has quite a few children, the oldest is Ruzyn, and she’s gifted… She should go to Turenay! But instead, they seem to be thinking of marrying her to one of the boys from the village where we’d been first. Not my problem… But it was nice with Jeran, at least, at first.

Then we got talking about doing invocations before going to sleep, and I said, I know of a way to do the invocations to the Gods without words, but dancing. Jeran’s eldest turned out to be able to drum, and I went into a side room and took off my clothes, and went back in. Hairy like an ape — two days since I was shaved! But the drumming was good, and I went through Doctor Cora’s dancing routine like a temple girl, everything was right, and Aldan and Jeran and Ruzyn saw I had danced the invocations.

After that, Aldan went to bed, and I stayed to talk with Jeran. I wanted to sleep with him, but he thought I was too young!!! If there’s ever been a man in the whole history of mankind who could turn down a chance of sleeping with a seventeen year old woman, well, there cannot have been more than one, and he’s Jeran. Either that, or I’ve turned too ugly to touch from all the travel in the sunlight and rain.

So I went to sleep, though to write down this first in my book that I bought to write everything in, and see if my adventures will be as interesting as Hylti’s. Fortunately, Aldan still allows me to sleep next to him, and he holds me fast, and he hasn’t beaten me even once, in all the time we’ve been travelling.