Catching a crook!

I don’t think people have faces like earworms (or possibly “earwig” which is a somewhat less literal but much less symbolic translation of “oorwurm”) but it’s too funny to change.

Real adventure! We had just given our horse a name, Freckle, and we were making our way to the capital, Baraz — making quite good speed, too! Even if Lelem, that’s the prince who was after Maha, he said that Freckle was slow! But that comes later. At most places, villages or houses or inns, we earned our food working, helping out with the stables or at the woodpile. That was fun!

One evening we were really lucky, because there was a huge wedding! And when we had congratulated the bride and groom, we were invited and we could eat as much as we wanted, and dance and drink, only there was only honey wine, which gives me the headache, so I drank water mostly. And we made music, too — we’re getting really quite good both with Valdyan and with Velihan music! But I was tired quite soon, so I went up to the hay loft, where I gossiped for a while with a woman who was feeding her baby — it had the cutest red frizz! I wish my hair wasn’t so ugly! And then I curled up inside the hay and went to sleep.

Fikmet didn’t come to bed for a long time! She told me next morning that she’d been dancing with the Velihan children almost all night, but she didn’t seem to have a headache, even though she likes honey wine! But I let her sleep for a bit and went down to help the stablehand mucking out the stables and feeding the horses.

And then I asked whether I could do some more, and he said, you can chop the wood, which I can! But he also said that their axe would be too big for me! Well! I am big, so I grabbed that axe and started chopping wood. But if he hadn’t said that, I would have taken my own axe, because that axe, it came to my collar bone, almost! But I did it, and the wood was chopped and bread baked, but that took too long, so I took Fikmet egg pie, leftover from yesterday, and we had egg-pie and then went on our way again, this was a very nice inn, and I’d wish we could go back there, I had a bet, too, but I’ve already forgotten about what.

Oh wait! It was about our princes! The Queen of Velihas is going to Valdyas, and she wants to get our King promise her the hand of one of our princes for her daughter Maha (or for another daughter). But our princes are far too young and besides, Maha already is sweet about some boy. (Though I was fibbing when I told the King, later on, that she was going north to see whether there was a Temple to the Mother where people left babies to die, that’s Pai who is going to do that, but Maha might go there as well, so it was not a complete lie.) So she’s going to be disappointed, and I bet him that! I mean, the stablehand. Now I only have to remember to go back there when Queen Lédu passes with a face like an earworm!!!

But when we came across prince Lelem, he agreed with us that his Mother had gone on a fool’s errand. He was hunting with a bird! And horns that made a surprising din, but he said the birds he was hunting didn’t care. And his bird was very young, and had to learn everything still.

So before he told us that, we were going along the road and suddenly a pigeon dropped out of the sky! Poof! And Wolf, of course, was really interested, and took the pigeon in her mouth, but then the prince came out of the forest, and a weird wild bird with a wicked beak dropped down on his hand, he was wearing a big leather glove because the talons of his bird, they were wicked too.

And I said that Wolf had to drop the pigeon, but the prince, we had met him before, he said, Wolf could eat the pigeon, so Wolf did and made a big mess out of it.

But then Lelem sent up his bird again, and it came back with a sparrow! That was such a tiny morsel, it was allowed to eat it, and it went in completely, feathers, bones, everything! Guzzle, guzzle, guzzle and it was gone.

And Lelem said we were two days from Baraz because our Freckle was so slow, but she isn’t really, she can go fast, but not with us sitting on a blanket on her back, and nothing to hold on to! Our Freckle is awesome!

But he was at least a bit right, because we weren’t in Baraz when it was getting dark, so we went to look for a place to stay. Sleeping outside is fun, but it was getting cold! The Feast of Mizran was a long time ago already… So I am well and truly nearly almost thirteen now! I only have to wait for the Feast of Timoine!

We found a small water-mill, and when we knocked a woman opened the top half of the door. She said she was Lastal and it was her mill. We said, we’re Lyse and Fikmet and travelling to Baraz and can we have a place to sleep and some food, and we’d work for it! So she looked us up and down and said yes, and started baking pancakes! Lots and lots of pancakes, pancakes are awesome, people say you can get sick eating too many of them, but that hasn’t ever happened to me yet. Pancakes are not like honey wine!

The next morning we’d help her clean the green stuff, water plants and things from the millwheel, we promised, but it was too dark now.

So we went to sleep, Fikmet, me and Wolf in the little room to the side, where her sons used to sleep before they went off to get married (one) and to become a sailor (the other one). And Fikmet was snoring and Wolf softly yapping, like she does when she dreams of hunting, when I heard low voices having a quarrel in the other room.

It’s more than a year ago that someone last forbade me to listen in on what the grown-ups were talking about, so that’s not forbidden anymore, so I listened in, and I heard Lastal say, “No! I won’t do it anymore. I’ve done it twice for you, I won’t do it a third time! Leave!”

And then a man growling something I couldn’t understand, and then more quarrel. So I took the axe-haft that I also use to carry my bundle with, it doesn’t always have the axe-head on it, but it’s big, and I took that big stick and opened the door.

I said, “Lastal wants you to leave! Leave!” And threatened him with the haft.

And he said, “Mind your own business!”

And I said, “If Lastal doesn’t want you here, and she wants me here, and you’re not going, then it’s my business as well that you’re not going, so if you’re not going, I’m going to give you such a ding with this stick!”

And he said again, “Go back to your room, mind your own business, I have business with Lastal, mind your own business.”

So I said, this is my business, and explained it again to him, and he was looking as if he wasn’t understanding what I was saying, but before I was done saying what I wanted to say to him, Lastal hit him on his head with her iron skillet! Bang! Ding! And he went down, and Lastal and I tied him up neatly, and then Fikmet woke up and started looking through his clothes while I was comforting poor Lastal who was shaking like Dol-Rayen when the King comes for a visit. She is quite fat, so she’s very cuddly!

And she found a knife! In his sleeve! It was very sharp and slightly bent and useless to throw, but there was jewelry all over it. So we told Wolf to guard our prisoner, Lastal only knew him as “The Red One”, and we went outside, and there was his horse. It was very big and black! And we looked in his saddlebags, and there were beautiful clothes, some weird tools and all kinds of little pots.

He was cursing us, I know he was, but he did it in a language none of us knew, so I gave him water and then gagged him, and Lastal and Fikmet went back to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep, this was a real exciting adventure.

And the next morning, after we’d cleaned the millwheel (which is difficult! Fikmet had to wade in and use a long pole to drag out the weeds, and I and Lastal had to stop the wheel, even though the river tried to make it turn!), we slung our burglar over Freckle and bound him ankle to wrist, under Freckle’s belly, and with Fikmet riding Blackie (that’s what we named his horse, it is beautiful), we went to Baraz, to the Royal Palace! Like real thief-catchers and Royal Messengers.

We heard people say, “That’s Jhanam! He was a guest of the King!” But we explained how he had broken into Lastal’s house, and nobody said “Untie him!” They all believed us when we told how nasty he had been! They must have known we were speaking the truth because we were speaking Velihan, half with our mind, and that is how Jhanam had deceived them, he doesn’t have a mind to speak with, so he can lie and nobody knows! This is a good language, and I wonder, if I come home, whether I’ll say half of everything with semsin, too, when I speak Ilaini.

And then we came to the big open space under some huge trees, with some guards, and I said to the biggest guard, “Captain! We’ve captured this man, and he has broken into Lastal’s house, and there are secrets, and a secret letter, so we want to speak to the King, besides, we have a letter from the King to the King.” And Lastal had written a letter, too, and I hadn’t wanted to ask her what her secrets were, because she seemed to be ashamed, besides, those were her secrets, but maybe they were in the letter to the King.

And the guard went to fetch the Crown Prince, he’s called Fekemme, and he took us up a lot of ladders, with someone following us with our stuff, and Jhanam being put in jail and other people taking care of Freckle and Blackie, and I carried Wolf upstairs.

And the King of Velihas could have been the twin brother of our King! They are exactly the same, except King Edhmem is ten years older, still has two eyes and is a bit fatter. And we explained everything and gave him all the letters, and Fekemme asked people to bring food.

So while the king was reading letters, we were making jokes with Fekemme, he likes jokes just like us, and is just as silly, and the food was awesome!

And then the king looked at the ring and the dagger and he discovered poison hidden in the ring and a secret hiding place for poison in the hilt of the dagger! So he called for the doctor, and she went through all the little pots and she said, Jhanam is a poisoner!

It was a very good thing we caught him! And the King said so, and he said he was sorry he had trusted Jhanam, he thought Jhanam had come to sign contracts for trade, and some of those were in Ilaini, and I could read them, and they looked like real contracts, trading herbs and stuff for jewelry and stuff.

But… If he was a poisoner, and his dagger’s poison hole was empty, he must have used it! But not in Baraz, since nobody had died when he was there. (At least, that’s what the King says, I think that people can die one or two or three weeks after being poisoned, after all, there are plenty of wounds that only make you die after some time, like when your leg is crushed between a boat and the quay and goes green and runny.)

But now Fikmet and me are going to Istila with the secret letter of Jhanam’s because nobody in Baraz can read it, and we’ll ask who died of poison there! And Fekemme is coming with us, because he wants to travel and we’ll take a tent and Blackie, and see how fast she can go!

It’s really nice in Baraz, especially in the temple of Timoine, which is like a tent made out of trees that grow that way, with a little river through the center, and Velihas is a really good country to be, even if all the animals, especially the cows and dogs are very small.

But I am looking forward to leaving Baraz and going to Istila! We’ve got a travel companion again, and even though he is a boy, he is not stupid.

(Except that he doesn’t want us to work for the food and lodging, which is silly and maybe stupid. Work is fun!)