Travel Diary of Khushi Cheraim, 4
Written in the bed of Commander Moyri of the Order of the Sworn in Essle, with as little light as I can possibly make to write by
And I’m not alone in this bed. She is here, too, Moyri, I mean. Only now she’s fallen asleep I begin to realize how crazy it was of me to try to seduce the Commander of the Order of the Sworn — during a fencing match, too! Still, I succeeded, didn’t I? Directly after the fencing match was over, I’d won, and she’d ticked me off for trying to make love to her in her mind during the fighting… We went to bed, and then we went to take a bath in the nearest Síthi bath house, some food and then back to bed. It was rather terrifying, to see the appetite for sex someone who usually doesn’t have it can have, when they finally can have sex. It was lots of fun, too.
Still, the little mind-kisses I sent her during fencing must’ve been welcome, right — otherwise she should should have been able to kick me out of her mind like snapping her fingers.
But I’m wondering why I’m doing these crazy things… Having fun with Valdyans is, I guess how I made myself more Valdyan when everyone was telling me to be Síthi. I thought I was going to be more and more Valdyan after leaving town, all by myself, but instead I’m becoming more and more Síthi on my own. Being scared of chicken or squid, I mean, and feeling rather weird right now since Moyri’s room is on the top floor of the order house. And thinking of the Gods the Síthi way.
And I guess now that I’m doing this be-a-nice-Síthi thing to myself, instead of getting it beaten into me by Father, if I try to escape myself, I do even weirder things — like grabbing a sweaty commander and dragging her to her bed…
For a while I thought that maybe I was doing wilder and wilder things — though Rava in Three Hills wasn’t that wild! — because nobody was keeping me in check with a trashing a week anymore, but I guess it’s not that, it’s me being weird. Professor Senthi said that that I always overthink things, and Lady Rava said I had more smarts than’s good for me, and not nearly enough wisdom, and I don’t think either of them is wrong.
It’s now about 30 or 35 days since we left Turenay, that makes four or five beatings or so I’ve missed. Fencing leaves bruises, too, but that’s really different. I am getting quite good at fencing, too, even when I’m not sneakily distracting my opponent. At first I was wondering whether the fact that nobody beats me now meant that nobody cares about me… I’m beginning to think that I had better ask Moyri in the morning whether there’s someone like Doctor Airath from Turenay here in Essle.
Before we left Three Hills, Aldan slept another night with Jerna at the manor, and I believe they really slept together this time, which is good. And recently he’s started holding my left breast when we lie together to sleep (and I mean sleep). So there’s progress. When we left Three Hills, we passed Rava’s smithy, and she fixed the pecking hoof of my mare, and we cuddled some and promised to write. Letters… We’d just spent an entire afternoon writing letters for Turenay! I’ve also got my codebook, now. Haven’t managed to learn it by heart yet.
In any case, it was a very interesting journey from Three Hills to Tilis. We traveled through the wood on the left, that is east bank of the Valda until we arrived at the Hundred Rivers. We traveled with a basket maker, his son and daughter. The son is with the Guild of Anshen, and the daughter hopes to become a midwife, if she turns out to be gifted. They taught us a lot about the road, the river, Erday and Lenay (that we passed without entering), and in the evenings, Aldan and I and Jilan worked out with our minds. I got quite good at cooking with what the forest provides, as well as what we’d taken with us, so everyone was happy, at least, once I had replaced the sourdough starter that I had forgotten in Hylti’s kitchen.
Tilis has a huge castle on stilts, and a lot of people coming and going. After we’d left our horses and most of our pack, we were told where we could take a warmish bath, before meeting the Baroness. I noticed that Aldan had started to get a moustache and the beginning of a beard, so I offered to shave him. In return he wanted to shave me, but I think I’d prefer for him to practise a bit, say on his own arm, before I let him wield a sharp knife around all those delicate folds.
While I was shaving, a boy was looking at me with more than normal curiosity. Usually I don’t mind if people look at me and enjoy what they can see, but his stare, I felt it was offensive! At first I didn’t realize why, but then light dawned: he was with the Nameless. I told him to mind his own genitals, but he took offense and wanted to fight me, but I wasn’t having any of that, and Aldan offered to stand between him and me, while I finished my business.
Later on, one of the guards who took us around the castle told me the boy might actually have been trying to flirt with me. Well! He’d better take a couple of lessons in basic being-nice then!
The Baroness was nice and old and very practical and said she would have a boat ready for us in the morning, and would take care of our horses.
Then we went and had dinner with our travel companions and their wife and small kids. In the evening, Jeran and I did some fencing, also with semsin, before going to bed. I’d had a small and innocent flirtation with Jeran during the journey, all in our minds, but since all children, Aldan and me shared one small attic, there was no way for us to kiss each other with flesh. Oh well, he was a nice boy, but a year younger than me, and that counts.
From Tilis to Essle, to the Order House, by boat is two days! We had a good skipper, also in the Guild, so we were completely safe. Of everything that is, but being entered by begging children. There were so many poor, children and grown-ups, all too thin, too sick looking, begging for their life, swimming like rats. My heart broke — there was no way we could help even one of them. Our skipper, Merain, he had taken one of them with him, once, and now regards him as his son. He fixes up old boats as good as new, even though his spine is crooked and one leg shorter than the other.
We’re staying a couple of nights in the Order house; yesterday we went to the Temple of Mizran to turn our letter of credit into money so we could buy a house and workplace in Selday. I’ll buy my stock for making sweets here in Essle, everything is here, and it’s all much cheaper than in Turenay, so I bet it’ll be cheaper than in Selday, too.
Today was the day of Anshen, with prayers in the temple, breakfast, sword practice, making love with a woman about twice my age, bath, food, and making love again. Tomorrow, we’ll go to Maile’s island, and then I’ll buy my stock, and we’ll go to Selday!