Learning strange things
She’s finding out what she’s made of. Also, with proper twelve-year-old disdain for restraint, what she can do.
Fekemme really wanted to go and travel! As if he’d been waiting for a good excuse or reason — maybe just for people to travel with! He said, let’s go tomorrow! And we said, sure, if the King is done writing the letters. We’ve got letters for the Harbour Master in Istila, for the Valdyan doctor in Istila (from the Doctor, not the King), for our King… Maybe some more, there are quite a few!
The day that Fekemme spent preparing, we spent with the doctor. She invited us, and we didn’t want to say no, besides, we had nothing better to do. And it was very interesting! She can sing, and when she sings in a language nobody uses anymore, it’s that old, she can take away fever! Of course, the Doctor in Turenay can do that just by touching, but then, she’s a queen (but I don’t know of which country.) And people gave us lots of food, and we could help out, like with the man who had hurt a leg, we chopped wood for a week and brought enough for a day, all the way up the tree.
These tree houses are very inconvenient! If you’re old and cannot climb anymore, you will be let down in a big pair of leather breeches, on a rope, and when you want to go home, they have to pull you up. It does sound like a lot of fun, but perhaps not when you’re old and have to do it always.
The doctor is very nice, but when we took a bath in the little hut they built over the river, we saw she had tattoos just like our priestesses of Naigha, and she said, she was of Naigha too. Her upper arm was tattoeed, and I couldn’t really see what it was, it wasn’t a snake, but out of the bit I couldn’t properly see, there was a snake coming out, and it had its head right between her breasts! She said she had been married, and that must have given her husband a surprise every time he kissed her! Fikmet is taking her snake, too, and says it must learn how to catch mice, for otherwise, what is it for?
We had dinner with the King, roast goat, very good! And the King asked us to take care of Fekemme for him, and that it was all right with him if we took him for a longer journey, but not forty years long. And we later heard that the King had asked Fekemme to take care of us.
And the next morning we left! We had three horses — Freckle was going back to her village, Fikmet was really sad. But we went on Blackie, and she could carry all our stuff, the saddle is big, and has bags and knobs to tie stuff like blankets on. And Fekemme has two horses, one that is fast, and he doesn’t use a saddle, but rides on a blanket. And one that is slower, and has to carry his bundle and the TENT.
The TENT is awesome! It’s big enough for the three of us, and really old. The King said that he and his Queen had slept in the tent when they made Fekemme and his sisters and brothers, so I had to blush! But it is very cleverly made, with bits of leather that tie together around a kind of basket of sticks that can be put on top of each other with a bit that makes one stick stand on the other stick, and side of the bits of leather is white, the other side brown, so you can have a striped tent, a white tent or a brown tent.
Fikmet immediately began to think of ways of making the tent better!
And I went to fetch Wolf, who had been “adopted” by Fekemme’s little brothers and sisters, and didn’t really want to leave. But when we were out of Baraz, she had forgotten them already and started going ahead on her own, and then came running back, she wanted to travel, too!
But riding a horse is hard! At first, I tried to make the horse go and stop and go left and right like you do with a carthorse, and poor Blackie was so confused! So I watched Fekemme closely and did what he did, which is nudge the horse with his knees and ankles to make it go left or right or faster, and he uses the reins only to make it go slow or stop. And that worked.
But I got horrible cramp in my thighs and my behind — so it was good that we had to stop at a little stream to let the horses drink and eat grass. And when we had our break I could ask Fekemme a question that I had been trying to figure out for some time: who could teach me to use semsin? So I asked him, could he teach me, and he said he’d already taught his little brothers and sisters a bit, so why not us?
Of course, Fikmet knows stuff already, she’s been taught by Ferin, but she doesn’t think she could teach me, not explain what things are. Because Ferin wasn’t so good at explaining, and because she hasn’t got a lot of experience yet. But Fekemme is nearly sixteen, so he should know a lot.
And that evening, we put up our tent instead of going to the inn, because, well, it’s a TENT — we wanted to use it. And we found a nice little field at the wayside, Fekemme calls it a “glade”. And our tent looked really good! And we tied our horses with nice long ropes so they could drink from the little river and eat grass and herbs, and then we asked Wolf to guard the tent, which she did.
She wasn’t very hungry anyway, she had caught at least one rabbit along the way! And we went out to catch fat birds, “grouse” Fekemme calls them. I was looking forward to that, “grouse” are very fat and very tasty! And Fekemme showed us where to hide, so they would come past on their way to the brook, and when they came, he reached out, real fast, and got two! And Fikmet got one, and I got one, and we twisted their necks so they stopped pecking at us.
One grouse each! Yum! So we cleaned them and I put the tail feathers of mine in my cap, it’s felt. And Fekemme was a bit jealous, because he didn’t have a cap! He likes cloth, but even a prince only has a bit of cloth, and he has less silver money than I have! He only wears skins and leather and bark. But he doesn’t look poor, he looks very rich, somehow. Maybe it’s his hair…
Wolf was so excited when we returned. I swear she can count and saw that we had four birds, which mean, one for her! And all the bird insides, of course. I like liver, only stewed with onions and bacon. But the bird outsides were really good, we stuck them on green boughs and roasted them, and then took a bath in the river, we were all greasy all over.
And then… Fekemme started teaching! He first did something to the tent’s door flap, and it wouldn’t open, and he asked me, can I see something. And it did look… Weird. A bit like he’d spread something of himself all over the opening, and made it stick. So I touched it, and he said he could feel me touching it, so I started tickling it, and he had to giggle!
And then he taught me that what he had put on the tent was semsin, was power, and that power is everywhere, just like air (except that there is no air in water, but there is power in water!), and that you could take the power, just like breathing in, and then use the power, just like breathing out.
So I tried to suck in power, but I didn’t really see it yet, but I started feeling, like, inside, where the power would be if it were in me, like, air is my chest, grouse is in my belly and thoughts are in my head! And I found it, sort of like behind where my throat ends and my collarbone begins, and he said, that was right, but not completely right, because power can be anywhere in your body.
But I tried to take power out of the world by breathing in, and then blow it out when breathing out, and that did do something. I felt myself fill up, like… And when I blew power over Fekemme, it tickled, too. And when I blew it in the fire — it did something, like fire splutters when your drop water on it, and Fekemme said, I wasn’t made of fire, and when I tried to get power from the little brook, he said, I was made of water. Which makes sense, of course. So I tried to make the water foam with power, but that didn’t work either, because the water was flowing so fast! When I had touched some water, it was already gone.
When I tried to close a gap in the tent, my power didn’t stick, but there was something. So I tried to find something easier, and I tried a spiderweb, because that is sticky already, only one without a spider in, and that didn’t stick either… And I tried to close the gap between my fingers when hold my thumbs and index fingers together, and that worked! Fekemme tried to poke through it, and I *felt* it! I was learning stuff!
And I saw that Fekemme and Fikmet, they suddendly looked like a blur, like they were double, but not separate, it was very strange! And the bit of Fekemme that I hadn’t seen before was much more handsome… More like, well, himself. And then I saw everything!!! I saw the birds, I saw the spiders, I saw the fish in the brook, the fieldmice, Fikmet’s snake, an evil little thing that Fekemme later told me was a fox, a bad fox, the dark side of Mizran, Wolf hunting for a late-night rabbit, and I saw the rabbit. And I saw more rabbits, and I had to blush, and I looked around even more, and I even saw the old smith who lives at the edge of Baraz, almost a day of travel away!
And then I had a headache, and Fekemme gave me some bitter-sweet tea, and we went to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited, so I kept everyone up with lots of silly talk! It was also very cozy in the tent, and dark, and it made it a good place to talk.
The next morning, I was still seeing sort of double… But not everything anymore! Which was kind of quiet! But I did see a really big stag, and proposed we catch it, so we’d have plenty of food. Fekemme thought it might be too big for us to eat, but wanted its antlers for his place in the Palace (as if he’s going to be there any time soon!), and all the meat we didn’t want, well, there was an inn close by, wasn’t there? We could share with them! And Fikmet wanted to hunt as well, so off we went, this time with Wolf.
And I closed the tent! With *semsin*. It did look like runny, lumpy porridge and didn’t quite stick, but it stuck enough! And so went on the trail of the Big Stag.
It was eating bark from a big tree next to a brook, and didn’t notice us! So, Wolf and I, we went around, while Fikmet with her knife and Fekemme with his bow and arrow were waiting for it. And we creeped closer and closer… And then Wolf gave a growl! The stag looked up, saw Wolf and me, turned, and ran straight to Fikmet and Fekemme!!!
They got it, an arrow through the throat and a knife at its flank (but that wasn’t quite a hit, it didn’t stick, just like my “seals”.)
We emptied it then and there, and Wolf shared the stag insides with Mizran, while we debated how to get the beast home. Cut it up then and there, and wrap in the skin? Or try to carry it? If I lifted its hind leg, and Fekemme lifted it’s front leg, it turned out that that was all that we could lift! The body didn’t go up!
And to drag it over the ground would waste the beautiful skin! So Fikmet said, we cut it up. But I said, no! Because, we could do it just like the brewers and porters at home, if they have something heavy to unload or load and don’t haverane — so I made a triangle of thick branches, two long branches and a short one, a big and long triangle, and we turned the stag over and over until it was on top of the triangle. And Fekemme and I lifted the pointy end, together, and we dragged the stag to our camp place.
And there we began to cut up our catch! We were all soaked to the skin with blood, there were bits of liver, lung and gut in our hair, everywhere! Wolf went nearly crazy! But soon, Fikmet had skinned the stag, and the skin was soaking in the brook, and we were cutting of the antlers and the head and the legs and things, when we we saw a cart pass by.
We had so much food now that I hailed the drover, and he and his wife came up to our camp place. They didn’t flinch or anything! It turns out that the man was a tanner. So he could help with the hide! And his wife went to get wood for a fire. But there was still so much meat! I said, isn’t it a pity we cannot ask the people in the inn to come and share! And Fikmet and Fekemme laughed at me, and they said, sure we can ask! And in an hour, there was a cart and lots of people, father, mother, their children.
And when everything was cut up and the people from the inn began to prepare the food — they had brought cauldrons and grids and things — we went to wash! Ourselves and our clothes, and Fekemme had found a nice hollow a bit upstream. We had to share it with the trout, but there was a waterfall and it was nice and deep, so we could really wash. I tried again to make the water warm with semsin, but the waterfall kept adding cold water so I never knew whether it worked! But at least we were clean, I still had a bit of blue soap from the village at the waterfall, in Valdis.
And when it was noon, we had a feast! We all ate so much of the stag, that we were sleepy, and we decided to go with the inn people to their inn, and the tanner and his wife went back, too! They wanted to sleep in a bed!
So we broke up the tent, and went to the inn, where the rest of the meat (two legs, a lot of boiled neck and shoulder, chunks of rib and belly — and the tongue — went to the kitchen. The old grandad got his sweet and tender piece of the back (the bit that goes along the spine, it’s very tender!). And Fekemme made sure we had a room with a real bed.
And a bath! A hot bath — I felt quite cold by now. But the tub, it didn’t have cold water coming in, so I tried to make it warmer with power, but all that happened is that I got really cold myself! And I couldn’t feel if the water was warm, and Fikmet, who was in the tub with me said, maybe it’s cooling a bit slower. But that was all! And I couldn’t “seal” the warmth in either.
And that’s where we are now, in the bed. All three of us, which is kind of strange! But Fekemme isn’t stupid, and he isn’t looking for girls, he says, the only girls who aren’t stupid are girls who aren’t always trying to catch me, and he is right. So it’s no problem.