Travel Diary of Khushi Cheraim, 8 and 9

Domestic Bliss

And just when I thought we couldn’t be happier… I made Aldan furious with me!

Our house/workshop/shop was all finished, cleaned and we had lots of help from neighbours and friends from all over Selday to put in all the furniture. The workshop was in a fine state, my ingredients mostly still fresh and usable, the kitchen clean and the stove with its weird top and doors great for cooking on — though an open fire without doors feels better when it comes to praying. Our bedroom was cozy, the shop had its shelving done, and Aldan told me his bedroom upstairs, for when someone else would be sleeping with me, was all right as well.

So, I spent some time making the first batches of various candies, and agreed with the nearest baker to make the pastry that I would fill with my lemon-cream filling. Soon, the nicest smells came from our house, and we had customers almost immediately. And not only that, Aldan agreed to take samples of the pastries down to the inns at the waterfront, and we got a good fixed agreement to supply the one he works for, the Piebald Carrack! With quite a good profit for both us and the baker, too.

One day, I took my samples up to the Ishey House. I’d put on my best Ishey clothes, and Aldan came with me, to speak to the Ishey men and boys and learn from them whether they knew something about what was going on in that weird ship. I was received courteously enough, and the Ishey ladies allowed that my Ishey was passable, but they were a bit dismissive of King Mazao and his Ishey village… They liked the sweets very much, though! I think they’ll become customers — but gosh! their conversation is boring! I used to think that gossip was always interesting, but they managed to make the juiciest gossip as dry as a week-old bun.

Then one night we had Ram over, to try and get me into the hold of the mysterious ship in the wharf. We had a nice dinner, and I did manage to leave my body after some tries, and get unseen to the ship — only to discover that the mysterious place in the hold was locked up with Iss-Peranian seals, very unfamiliar, and yet redolent of the anea of the Iss-Peranian overseer from up the mountain. Maybe we should go and visit the White House one of these days, with my sweets as a, well, sweetener. But I didn’t want to disturb the seals, and so I went back to my body. Ram made me warm again — bodies always seem to cool to freezing when the anea is gone! So that was the first night Aldan had to sleep upstairs, but that wasn’t why he’s now so angry with me that he’s hinting he’s going to leave Selday…

He had found regular work in the Piebald Carrack inn in any case, and was away most evenings. I spent those evenings either in my workshop, or helping Alaise, our apothecary neighbour, or studying Master Jilan’s, our doctor neighbour’s books. Mornings, I’d get clean water (there’s only a pipe now, no water yet), get the pastry filling done, delivered to the baker, then make breakfast for the two (or sometimes three) of us, and after that, clean the kitchen and workshop and put out my wares in the shop, just in time for the children going to the Temple of Naigha school, then their mothers or fathers coming back to their own shops or workplaces. Afternoons were for making more sweets, marketing, keeping books and visiting the farm up on the hill, and checking on the progress of the breaking of the ground for my own garden. (I’m also collecting seeds and seedlings from the farm, and from the ships stopping in Selday, to be ready for next year.)

Of course, twice a week, the shop is closed, on the day of Anshen, and on the day I have to walk the streets with the town guard.

We were working hard, and everything seemed blissfully domestic!

Then one morning, Maile arrived, from the farm up the mountain. She wanted to become my apprentice sweet-maker. I hadn’t really expected that, though I had offered, so I asked Aldan whether there was a spare room for her upstairs, and that wasn’t a problem at all. And she’s clean, and hardworking — too young to see whether she will turn out to be gifted by the Gods, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all. It’s nice not to have to do everything by myself, although Aldan had been helping me, of course, and very well too.

Then one evening Aldan had a plan to discover more about the mystery ship that was being built. We had asked Ram, who works on the shipyard, to check whether he could view the plans, and then share what he was seeing with us, through his mind, and those plans were tantalizingly incomplete. He would go out into the Piebald Carrack and keep his ears peeled, because the overseer from the shipyard would often go there and get sozzled.

So Maile and I were alone that evening… Ram had shown me that the overseer had left the works, and I tried to visit the ship again with just my anea. I noticed two Iss-Peranian men’s aneas in that area of the boat, so I came back and quickly devised a plan. I asked Maile to help me dress in my most whorish clothes, and grab a knife and follow me in the shadows. It wasn’t dark yet — only a bit dusky.

And I was going to seduce one of those men when they came out of the wharf and take him with me, and then sneakily sneak the truth out of him. In all the hurry, I forgot to warn Aldan…

And it worked. I saw the two men coming out of the gate shortly after I had taken up position under a street lamp. They were both young, quite handsome, and went their own way. One was going to the Piebald Carrack, and one — well, I approached him and smiled at him. He instinctively felt in his purse, and that apparently reassured him, and he smiled at me.

Anshen, Anshen — I promise I won’t play the whore anymore. It just feels ICK. I don’t know how Doctor Cora can feel it’s just another thing, as normal as breathing, when she deals with her whores in the brothel she owns.

But I’d hooked him, and with Ailin following me, we went over the waterfront to Khapo’s inn, I’d send Khapo a message with my mind to prepare a room for me and leave the back door open and free. I asked Maile to warn Aldan — I never thought of warning Aldan with my mind either!

And when we arrived at Khapo’s inn, I took my trick to the back door and into the bedroom, where I made light, and kind of lost it.

I must’ve been pretty incoherent, sobbing that I actually wasn’t a whore, but was a Guild runner looking into this thing in this ship he was working on, and so on. He was a bit angry at first, then a bit amused, then asked me whether we were going to make love, or not? After all, he’d already given me the coin!

I said, yes! But not for the coin, and not while he was wearing that filthy, filthy, filthy slave collar. I took the gold in both my hands, and wrested with it. It didn’t want to come apart, there was semsin in there as well, so I made a big seal, and wrested again, with all the strength of my hands and all the strength of my mind, and I broke it!

Then we made love, and he did it very competently, too, and I took him to our house, hidden under semsin.

He was terribly worried about himself, he would have to flee, and Essle was not safe, so where could he go? And his mate, he’d seen me as well, what about him?

Well, by now I had recovered my wits, and I had a PLAN. I told him I’d get help from a couple of Ishey boys, and that they’d take them to Valdis the long way, the way Parandé and Zendeĝi had come! And in Valdis, they’d go to the King and the Queen and show their broken collars and ask for help setting up a locksmith’s shop, because that’s what they were doing on the ship — adding double locks. That opened on the inside for someone to lock themselves in, not to lock someone else in.

Hm, that made it all the more mysterious.

When I got home, Aldan was furiously silent. He was silent when I sent him out to catch Kubo’s mate early in the morning and bring him to our place. He was silent when we took of this guy, Bhalik’s collar as well. He was silent when we got two Ishey boys to take our new friends up the mountain, on the road to freedom.

Only when everyone was gone, he got voluminously angry at me! I’ve never been so afraid of anyone! I offered to let him whip me, but he didn’t even do that, he just was angry and more angry. And he went to sleep upstairs, so now I’m alone and writing my report…