According to Lyse’s player, “that’s what children are for, to catch crooks”.
I realise that Lyse is an unreliable narrator, but I’m not going to fix anything that doesn’t mess up the narrative: she’s eleven years old, after all.
There is so much you need to do when you are in a city! Lots and lots and lots of things to do! I prefer a boat, or a road, or a village!
And now everything is in a muddle in my mind.
There was the Feast of Naigha, and there was Fekemme’s little nephew, his brother Lelem’s son, in the baths. And there was the work we did in the bakery, and the felt blanket we got for Fekemme and the sailors’ clothes shop, and the visit to the Khas village and the morning we went out to catch fish with the Khas, and we went to the horse market to see how Barha sold Blackie, and there was the visit to the apothecary with the letters and the night we were playing I-see-I-see-what-you-don’t-see with semsin in the inn, and then a woman, she’s called Arvi, she joined us and we caught Red Jhanam’s accomplice, and he had poison, too! And we met acrobats, and we’ll travel with them to Cuytim.
I’m never going to remember it all if I don’t write it down!
So there… The first evening, we went to the Iss-Peranian bakery where Missus Roushan bakes the most wonderful buns and sweet things, things that drip with honey and are sticky and lovely! She said, yes, we could stay in her shed if we helped cleaning up and making the fire and chop wood, so that was fine! No reason to spend money on a room in a stupid inn, and no need to stay with the harbour master (he hadn’t offered, but I think he should have, seeing that we have the prince with us — but it would have been boring, I am sure!).
And we went to the apothecary and gave her (she’s from Iss-Peran) the stuff we got from Red Jhanam. We got heaps of silver for that, too! And then Fikmet remembered the letters in the weird language, and she could read them, too. But she didn’t translate them for us! So we still don’t know what was in them.
So then we went back, and Fikmet and me, we put Wolf in bath. She didn’t like that, but Istila is so muddy! And while we were doing that, Fekemme went to get meat for Wolf’s dinner, since she couldn’t hunt here, obviously, and she didn’t like that either, but she liked the meat, it was pig’s offal, and a big bone. And then we told her to guard the back of the bakery, and we went to take our bath.
Bliss! It’s a real Síthi Bath, and we had our shilling, so we could go in! And it was warm and darkish, because the baths are in a hole in the ground, in a cave I mean, and there’s a well and hot water comes up. And a small naked boy, he is about two years old, he tried to run out when we went in, and I caught him, and he’s called Farid. And!!! It turns out that he is the nephew of Fekemme! And we met his mother, she is called Abatté, and she is beautiful. So beautiful that she made Fekemme blush, which is stupid, but I teased him with it anyway.
And Lelem is double stupid for leaving Abatté here alone with his son! She is not just very beautiful but also very nice and she helped us wash our hair and so on. And she made my hair RED. Bright, flaming, beautiful RED! I have never liked my hair, but now it’s great — even more red than Fekemme’s hair! And we got to talk with the other people in the baths, and they were nice as well. And I’ve got packets of dust to mix with hot water to make mud to make my hair red again as well.
And then when we were nice and clean and dry and had put on our good clothes, we went out for the Feast of Naigha. They celebrate it in a really awesome way in Istila: you buy some floating candles, really small ones, and then you light one for everyone who is dead who you are still thinking of and put those out on the sea, on the beach. The beach, it is made of a pebbles. Only nobody I know is dead, so I only put out one candle. And Fikmet, she was vexed because she didn’t know whether her father and mother are dead or not. But she and Fekemme know enough dead people, so they put out more than one candle anyway.
And at midnight, we sang the Midwinter Song, like we had studied with Fekemme, first it was silent, and then someone began, I couldn’t see who, and then everyone joined, it was a really big song with everyone singing, and beautiful, too.
And then there were all kinds of food stalls and drink-sellers, and we had all kinds of lovely food, and later on, there was dancing and music, too. Fikmet and I didn’t stay up late though, because of the work in the bakery in the morning, but Fekemme did, and he had too much of a headache to help out! But it was the best Feast of Naigha ever!
So that morning, Fikmet and me, we did the work, and then we had to discuss what to do next. We had to wait a bit in any case, for the horse market, and so we first went out to get clothes. We looked around at the market, but all the second-hand clothes were already half-spoilt, and some even had wrigglies in the seams! And then I got a good idea, I said: let’s go buy sailor’s clothes. Because those are very tough! And so we went to the right place and bought three pairs of trousers and three shirts, they are made out of a kind of sailcloth, and keep out most of the rain, too. And we got them nice and big and roomy! And Fekemme paid for them with a coin made out of wood that got bits chipped off and then taken to the Temple of Mizran so the seller could get his money in silver.
Now only one thing remained to be bought for Fekemme: something close to an Ishey blanket, and for that we went to the fuller’s. He had a very cute little daughter and sold us a big piece of felt for nearly nothing!
That evening we went to bed early on, because we were really tired, working in the bakery had been hard work! And the next morning, we went to visit the Khas. They live in a village to the north of Istila. They have married women from Velihas, and some of the women get salt from the sea, and one makes houses, and all the Khas men are fishermen. And Fikmet talked Khas with them and told them about their king and so on. And we had lots of fish to eat! They salt some of the fish and sell it in Istila.
The next morning, Fikmet and me, we went with the Khas out fishing!
But first the big adventure happened. After the fish we went back to Istila where we first found a school. And there were lots of other children, so we went and played and made some music and did dances and so on, and there was a boy, he is called Mík, and he made beautiful cartwheels, and he said, come with us when we go to Cuytim, the day after the horse market. That should be fun!
And then we went to the bakery, where we did some work, and then we were really hungry, and lazy, and I said, let’s go to the inn and have beer and pie! And so we went out and had beer and pie, but then Fekemme realized that we hadn’t done semsin for some time (even though we still do the invocations every morning that Fekemme doesn’t have a headache), and we thought, how can we do semsin?
And I’m not sure who invented the game, Fikmet or me, but soon we were doing I-see-I-see with semsin: someone would fix their mind on someone in the inn who was gifted (and half of them were!), and the others had to guess who it was. But then Arvi noticed, she is a Guild Runner, and she wanted to play with us, but I think she actually wanted to make sure we didn’t do anything people would mind, but she also liked the game.
And then Fikmet fixed her mind on someone in a corner who was weird. He was from Iss-Peran and he was semte! And Arvi said we had to stop because this was very dangerous now, he was her quarry, he was a dangerous man! She wanted to catch him, but not right here in the inn. And she knew he was Jhanam’s accomplice.
Then we had to think, and Fikmet said, Lyse, you always say you’re clever — don’t you have a plan? And that made me think of a really good plan! I said, go to the Harbour Master and tell him that he has to put some men in the bakery shed, and I would go to the man and tell him that Jhanam had sent me, that he was hiding in the shed because he was afraid of being caught. And that he had sent me.
So we did that!
And when I saw Fikmet in the shed, I went to the man and I touched his shoulder — he was staring into the fire, brooding. And I said, “Please, sir, are you Bahar? Jhanam told me to go and look for you. He said you’d give me a shilling! And to tell you that he is hiding, because he doesn’t dare to come out.”
He was a bit suprised at first, but since I knew Jhanam, he could see that I had met Jhanam, and he believed me, and gave me a shilling, then followed me to the shed!
And we caught him!!!
And the next morning the Harbour Master had a headache because he had been having a party, so we had to wait until the afternoon until we could talk to Bahar, or rather, be there when the Harbour Master would talk to him, so we went fishing first, while Fekemme went to talk some more to Abatté.
And in the afternoon, Bahar confessed! He said that after the King of Valdyas (my king!) had kicked them out of Valdyas, they had come to Velihas, and they had come to steal children! To sell them in Iss-Peran! Iss-Peran is the most stupid country in the world if they think you need to steal children. Everyone knows children are easy enough to make! You only have to act really stupidly for that. But he said it was because they could only make children with black hair, and some people want children with white or red hair. I don’t think I really understood everything, but we made him very cleverly confess anyway.
And then Barha sold Blackie for more money than we thought would be possible… It was almost enough for two apprenticeships. That’s real money! When you apprentice, you get into a guild, and they you’re safe. It’s not like being boatpeople, guild people are rich and take care of each other. If you’re a tinker or a tailor or a shoemaker, if something happens, your guild will help you. If you’re boatpeople and you lose the boat, you can go out and beg if you haven’t saved for a new boat.
I couldn’t really explain to Fikmet and Fekemme, though. It’s like… I’ve always known I was boatpeople. Getting into a guild would never have been possible, it’s just too much silver! Twelve riders! So I never had to think of it. But now we’ve got so much silver, so I have to think of it… I think. It’s too much money to spend, in any case.