Travel Diary of Khushi Cheraim, 1

She was surprised to be sent but it’s all for the best. For now, anyway.

 

Written in the hay loft of the school’s stables by the light of my own anea.

Today I was truly set free! Before noon, a first-year told me Lady Rava, our principal, wanted to see me. Immediately. Quickly I went through what I’d been doing in the past couple of days, but apart from spending a night in the hay with the stable hand, nothing naughty that I could think of. Dayati knows, I try to be the most obedient and helpful student and daughter that could exist in the entire world, and cheerful, eager, hard-working and diligent student and daughter as well. Everything for a peaceful life! And it’s not wrong to kiss boys or girls, at least not to my Valdyan side: I am already seventeen, after all.

Of course, Father has only allowed me to attend the Guild School because it confers prestige on him; parents of children who attend the school led by the Mother of the Queen are not invisible! And only as long as I also helped Mother and Baran in our confectionery shop just as much as if I weren’t attending school.

But, I had done nothing wrong. I had checked Arin to make sure he didn’t have lice or a disease, I’m drinking my anti-conception tea as Doctor Cora recommends, and he was eager, and I was eager. It couldn’t be that… But I was still worried, because I really couldn’t figure out any other reason why Lady Rava would want me to see her. Immediately.

When I arrived at her door, there was a year-mate of mine, Aldan. Aldan is rather cute, but comes from a desperately poor family from down-town, other side of the river. He’s also very quiet and reserved, and a bit peculiar: he refuses to use any weapon but his fists, and he very seldom comes with the rest of us to the Apple to have pie and cider. Instead he is the bouncer in a thieves’ kitchen kind of inn, just across the river.

When we entered the Presence, Lady Rava smiled at us. So, no scolding or punishment!

Instead, she told us that we were chosen to go out in the world! Just like Hylti and Maile and the others — we would be the first of this year’s final students to be sent out! It’s a great honor, because we’re sent out while we’re still not even masters, because the Queen thinks that having our master’s trial outside the school will teach us more, and because journeymen aren’t so conspicuous. But we are Guild Runners, for real!

I never thought I’d be chosen, being Síthi, and never having been outside Turenay, except to swim in the Mill Pond, but Lady Rava was sure of her choice.

She had, she said, received a letter and a map of Selday from her grandchild, Prince Vurian, and she had this gut feeling that something was up in Selday.

So Selday it was going to be! A harbour town in Idanyas, officially the fief of the Baron of Selday, an Iss-Peranian noble by the name of Koll Konande, in real life governed by a clan of Ishey women. Lots of shipyards, Selday has direct acccess to large and ancient stands of oak, the shipyards themselves were being managed by Koll Konande’s agent. Koll Konande, Lady Rava told us, had disappeared mysteriously in Albetire!

My mind raced… Lady Rava proposed we’d leave a few weeks after the Festival of Dayati, but… If Father would realize I’d go and travel all the way to Selday, through Essle, with a Valdyan boy as my only escort, he’d go spare. I think I’d be locked up the rest of my life in the scullery! So I proposed, let’s leave by tomorrow, over land. Let’s go through Three Hills, and visit Hylti!

I’ve read everything Hylti has written. On medicine, on eight-sided towers and Ishey bridges, on history, on geography, on folk stories from Little Valdyas… She is my hero! And, it would hardly be a detour, not a detour at all, in fact, if you’d look at the journey as a bird flies.

So we went out, first to Doctor Cora, to get our doctor’s bag. I’ve done four semesters in the hospital, so I know quite a bit about herbs, wounds, first aid, healing with semsin, so I added scalpels, tourniquet, bone saw and some other stuff to our kit, and I got a good store of drugs from the pharmacy.

We put all of that in a corner in the stable, then made the acquaintance of our horses. Two mares, obviously sisters, and a very placid pack-horse, a gelding. Then Aldan went off to tell his mum and sister that he was leaving, and I went round to the shop, to tell Mother. I found Baradar lounging in front of the shop, whittling a wooden bowl, but not doing anything useful. So I scolded him, and he shied and cut his finger. I healed it for him, the big baby, and dragged him into the work room of the shop.

I told Mother I was going to have to leave, and she got a bit teary and weepy, but went with me to my corner in the attic, and we made a bundle of my clothes and other possessions, and wrapped it up, and hugged and kissed, and then she said, go and sleep at the school tonight. I will tell Father when you have left Turenay, and I begged her not to let Father hit her too hard or too much.

If that makes it sound like Father is bit of a domestic tyrant, well, that’s because he’s a huge domestic tyrant. Always trying to make out our family was more important than invisible dependents of the Temple of Dayati back in Aumen Síth. Always making sure we wouldn’t do anything that Síthi Sagga in Aumen Síth wouldn’t have done — or what he and his cronies imagine about that. And he and his sons are the laziest beings that ever donned a thinly purple-and-white striped robe. He would have a thousand fits if he’d know I’ve been sleeping with boys and girls I like since I was thirteen or so. Sometimes I felt like telling him, just to see the fit, but then I remember the cane he always keeps close to him.

Bah. Thinking of Father decided my next place of call: Halla’s pharmacy. I wanted to get a good store of the herbs that prevent menstruation and pregnancy in one bitter cup of tea a day, copper salve against fucking diseases, two kinds of lice-killer… Selday is a port town, and I believe in being prepared! (Though I’ve never been sick, I’m picky when it comes to bed partners, though even being picky, there are plenty of cute enough people around.)

From there, I went to Master Mernath, to ask for a sword and a knife. Master Mernath is really intimidating, but I like him all the same. His wife supervises the nurses and acolytes in the hospital. Well, it took a bit of cajoling, but he promised me a knife and a sword at first light. I can handle quite heavy swords, I am pretty strong! I still think I could take Ferin, Master Mernath’s HUGE journeyman, at arm wrestling.

Ferin’s girlfriend… I’m sometimes jealous of her. She’s had her entire body painted, or rather inked, by Rhinla, plants, babies, fox and kits, hedgehog and babies, mice, a battling kitten, trees, water. On the other hand, she grew up knowing she’d be a Priestess of Nahasagga, and then I think, I’m glad it’s not me. On the other hand, her gran and mum, from the stories are really nice. So there’s something to be said for a household without men. Only then there’s Ferin — well, I’m glad they are together!

I’m babbling. I went to Aldan’s place, only to find them going out. I told Aldan’s mum she should ask Lady Rava for a stipend to make good what Aldan was earning in the low dive, and what she was going to lose now. Aldan went on to Master Fian’s school, to talk about his little sister, and I ran to the Ishey house.

The Ishey in Turenay are pretty amazing! There are men, women, everything in between and mixed up, children, people of all colors, they are sort of taking care of downtown, but in a very Ishey way. I wanted to talk to Asa, she’s their Queen, to get some things we’d need for our travels: Ishey blankets to stay dry, a bow and arrows and bow strings. The first thing I begged for, though, was a full set of good Ishey ladies’ clothing. If the Ishey ladies are bossing it around in Selday, well, that would be handy, wouldn’t it?

And I don’t just speak women’s Ilaini, like most women do in the Ishey settlement, but also very nearly proper women’s Ishey. Languages are fun!

Queen Asa gave me a wonderful set of her own dresses: an underdress, overdress, cape and stole, all except for the cape in the sheerest linen, and everything rimmed with gold. We sewed it into a clean cloth, and the whole package into oil cloth, to keep it unspoiled during our travels. We’d have to take a boat to Essle and a ship to Selday…

With my treasures, I went back to the school, and put them all down next our other belongings. Then I realized — boots! You cannot ride a horse barefoot or in dainty blue leather slippers with green tassels, the things I carry in my hands as often as I walk in them, but shoes are Valdyan, and therefore not suitable to the dainty feet of Síthi girls of marriable age.

Sweet Dayati, I suspect that Father would have found a bridegroom for me pretty soon after the Festival of Dayati, or maybe even for the Festival. Anshen be praised Lady Rava choose us to leave for Selday!

When I darted out of the school gate, Aldan and his mum and sister were just coming out of the front door, taking their leave of Lady Rava. So I grabbed Aldan’s arm and pulled him into the alley where Lady Dimani’s atelier is, but also the workshop of the best bootmaker of Turenay.

I knocked on the door, and his wife opened. They were having their supper… But we were allowed to wait, and there were enough unfinished boots that he had a pair that would fit me, and a pair that would fit Aldan, if we’d put a bit of straw in the toes. And he promised to finish them for us by the morning! It would cost the school extra, of course, but then, we would go out and work for the Kingdom!

So, I invited Aldan for pie and cider at the Apple, to celebrate our mission. The Apple was full up! There were two places free at the table where Ashti, Ferin’s squeeze, was sitting, but that was obviously Ferin’s place. Well, people made a bit of room, and when Ferin came back from the jakes and heard about our mission, he insisted on ordering pie and cider for us all, and most for Ashti, because Ashti is globular with twins. I asked her whether I could see her belly, because Rhinla had drawn babies on her belly when her belly was still flat, and I wanted to see what they looked like now. She said, after dinner.

Food was good, people were nice, and since almost everyone in the Apple belongs to the school we could talk freely. (The Apple part-belongs to the husband of Doctor Cora’s housekeeper.)

And Ferin beat me at arm-wrestling! But only by a bit!

And after dinner, Ashti and I went to the ladies’ jakes and she showed me her belly, and wonderful it was too! We had a good hug, and Aldan and I walked back to the school. I went into the school, and he went to his mum and sister’s place.

So, now I’m in the hayloft, done writing the first entry in my new notebook, and going to snuggle up to Arin, and tomorrow morning I’m going to ask him to have a good-bye-farewell tumble before I’ll collect our boots.