The temple of Mizran

The only person who has script immunity is still Prince Vurian. That means that people die, yes. But according to the GM, Dadán can take care of itself so it doesn’t matter that places don’t have script immunity either.

I slept on a straw pallet in the large room, not very quietly, because the girls were still in the kitchen making noise. In the middle of the night I woke up from what sounded like a huge argument, but it ended in giggles and I fell asleep again.

The next time I woke up it was light and there was a nice smell of porridge. Raisse was getting together her work things: a portable stove and a big hamper. Clearly she had a food stall!

I got mulled ale, and Merain poured a generous dollop of brandy into the bowl. “You’re going to the Temple of Mizran, after all!” he said, by way of explanation. “Come and have dinner here on the Day of Anshen, all of you! And I’ll want to speak with you mind-to-mind regularly to see how you’re getting on.”

Then the girls came from the kitchen carrying a pan of porridge between them. “We made it!” they said, but not before I’d tried it and approved of it.

I’d put on my best clothes for the occasion, the new breeches and shirt I’d bought in Veray, and the girls didn’t have anything better than they were wearing but I made them wash their faces and tried to make something of their hair. Lyase-Lédu’s turned out to be too stiff for that, like wire, and Raith’s the other way round: so straight and slippery that anything put in it slid out at once unless stuck on with wax or honey.

Merain showed us where we could get a boat to the big island where the temple was. As we went through the waterways –there must be a word for it! Like streets, with houses on either side, but all water, and boats on it carrying people and goods as if they were carts — the houses got less dingy all the time, larger, better painted. After a while we stopped at a quay and the boatman motioned for us to get out. “Eightpence,” he said, and I didn’t know the normal price but it didn’t seem very much for such a long stretch, so I didn’t try to haggle.

I heard the girls whisper behind me: “He didn’t even ask too much!” Well, it must be the fact that none of us looked at all rich, or perhaps he had little girls of his own at home.

The temple of Mizran was easy to recognise: it had pillars like the one in Veray, made of shiny white stone, just like its steps. As we reached the top of the steps –there were seven– and looked around expectantly a young novice came up and asked “Can I help you?” He had an embroidered scarf, or I wouldn’t have known he belonged with the temple. (I think it’s called a stole, but a scarf was what it looked like.)

“I have some letters of credit that I want to put in an account here, and a deed for a piece of land, I’d like to speak with someone who knows about that.”

He made us follow him to one of many rooms on a side corridor, where an older priest was sitting at a desk. “Thank you, Perain,” he said, “bring the young ladies some refreshment, will you?”

This priest was called Ernei Orian, and I’d probably be able to remember him by his impressive moustache. He was wearing a short embroidered cloak. I gave him my letter of credit from Turenay, and the one Rava had given me for travel expenses, which I hadn’t needed because I’d been working on the way. Orian had me write down my full name and my parents’ full names and occupations to open an account — good thing I didn’t need to write my own occupation, I wasn’t at all sure of that, but he probably had me down as a student. Perain brought a tray with a jug of wine and a plate of sweet pastries, and I made sure the girls got only a small drop of wine but I let them eat as many of the sweets as they liked. “Could we have water or fruit juice instead?” I whispered to Perain, but he said that it was against his religion. He did look more than a little Síthi!

As for the land, Orian knew more or less where it was but the city boats didn’t go there, I’d have to rent or buy a boat of my own. “That’s all right,” I said, “I can row.”

“Me too!” Lyase-Lédu said, and Raith looked doubtful but Lyase-Lédu whispered in her ear and she grinned and nodded.

“What would a boat cost?” I asked. “I have no idea.”

“You could pick up a small one for four or six shillings, if you can fix it up yourself,” Orian said. Well, that sounded reasonable! And fixing up a boat was one of the things I was sure I could do.

Then I showed the letter from Rava saying I could draw on special funds for my work, and Orian grew very serious and said, “The royal reserves? I’ll have to refer you to someone else for that.”

He took me to another room on the same corridor, occupied by a priest with more embroidery on his clothes. I’d heard that the Mighty Servant here had a cloak of cloth-of-gold, and by that measure this priest must be about halfway up the scale. “Tyan, here’s a young lady with a document,” he said, and closed the door behind us.

Tyan was gifted, but not in one of the Guilds that I could see, much like priestesses of Naigha are. I didn’t know if priests of Mizran had something like that, but it was clear that he noticed that I was gifted too because he asked me to seal the door. He pored over Rava’s letter, nodding and making approving noises. “I’ve had news of that,” he said, “we were expecting you, or at least someone like you. I wish you luck. You’re going to need that.” He put the letter with the other papers that Orian had given him. “If you need to get in touch with me, there’s a man called Merain in your Guild who knows how to reach me.”

“Yes, I know him,” I said, “I spent the night at his house!”

Then Orian and Perain were back to take us to a place where we could take a boat. “I hope you don’t mind leaving the temple through the back door,” Orian said, “there’s an Iss-Peranian captain in the front hall who insists that he has a claim to this Velihan girl.”

Lyase-Lédu went white, then red. “He, a claim to me? He owes me four shillings!”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to try and argue for that,” I said. “If you need money for anything you can get it from my travel fund. Let’s take the back door.”

We went through a kitchen, a corridor with storerooms on both sides, a courtyard with barrels and a pig-pen, a laundry room, another kitchen and a scullery, and then we stood on a small landing where a flat-bottomed boat was moored. “Ah, Loryn,” Orian said, “take these young ladies where they need to go, write it on the slate, all right?”

“I’d like to go somewhere I can buy a boat,” I said.

“Oh, that’s easy! We have one for sale, as it happens. Our Lochan will have finished it by now.”

He took us back almost to where we’d started, then turned into a narrower waterway that I was sure went to the east. We passed lots of small houses, shops, then a whole district of sheds and workshops and warehouses. Loryn was very talkative and we learned a lot about the city and its people — Tyan had had a grandchild kidnapped and taken away south! “The king will get her back now,” Loryn said, smugly. “And there are good things going on in Iss-Peran too, I know two boys and a girl who’ve had an offer to go pearl-diving in a new town they’ve discovered on the north coast, there are pearls for the grabbing there and what you find you may keep! Well, give half of it to the boss, of course, but you still keep the other half. All the contracts have been signed, all above board! It’s a very exciting town, it’s got a whole old city off the coast under water that used to belong to the emperor.”

That sounded like what I’d heard of Dadán, and I didn’t trust it one bit, but before I’d thought of a sensible thing to say about it we moored at a landing that looked much like Geran’s place in Veray. “Ayneth!” Loryn called. “Guests!”

A large woman appeared, a ladle in her hand. “Well, come in, you’ll be hungry.”

Hungry? Yes, I was, come to think of it, and the smells coming from the door behind Ayneth made that worse. Going to the Temple of Mizran and doing my business and coming here must have taken up the whole morning! We got bowls of what looked like yellow porridge with red flecks and little strange-shaped meaty things in it. It was delicious, very spicy and just a little fishy. “Are those snails?” I asked.

“Mussels,” Ayneth said, “yes, sort of water snails I’d say.” I told her about the snails we ate at home because otherwise they’d eat the vines, and she laughed. “We don’t have a lot of vines here, but we do have a lot of water!”

As we were still eating a gangly boy of about fourteen came in, his shirt stained with paint. He was clearly gifted, but looked untrained. “Lochan, this lady wants to buy your boat,” Loryn said.

He took me to a landing behind the workshop, where a small boat was lying, freshly painted bright blue and white. “She’s a hundred years old,” he said, “I did all of it myself!”

“I can pay you six shillings,” I said. I was prepared to pay more, after all, the work had already been done!

He shuffled his feet. “I don’t want money,” he said, “what I want is a master! In the Guild!”

“I’m only just a journeyman myself,” I said, “I’m looking for a master too! But I promise to find someone we can both learn from. All of us, in fact, the girls need to learn as well. I’ll come back here when I’ve found the right person. If I can find the way!” Essle was still so confusing that I wasn’t at all sure of that.

“Oh, I can find you!” he said, and I knew what he meant when I looked at the boat again: he’d put a bit of himself in the work. If he could do things like that untrained, how much would he be able to do when he had someone to learn from!

When I went to pick up my things in the house Ayneth said, “So you’re going to find our Lochan a teacher? Good! We don’t know enough masters, only Merain and he’s busy enough, also the bitch at the Drunken Seahorse can’t stand him.”

“What bitch?” I asked. “The only person I’ve heard of at the Drunken Seahorse is Athal.”

“Oh, Athal is dead — water on the chest — and his cousin has the inn now.”

“I thought the Drunken Seahorse would be a safe place for the Guild?”

Ayneth scowled. “Safe? Yes, if you agree with her. ” She didn’t go into details, but I’d find out somehow — I’d been looking forward to the Drunken Seahorse, perhaps to celebrate Midsummer which must be only days away now.