On a ship!
Even though they swore to go over land, but circumstances appear to have changed a bit.
A few days, and we’re already back in Valdyas! And it’s only been the Feast of Timoine a few days ago — maybe we’ll even reach the Rycha in time to see the wetlands flower! I’m sure Fekemme and Fikmet would love that, when everything is yellow and purple and blue and red and white with daffodils and irises and lilies and meadowsweet… That’s when the river is at its best!
We had to leave really quickly, too, because of a PLOT! And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it actually wasn’t connected with that plot we foiled, first in Baraz, then in Istila! It would make sense if it was all about the same thing!
We’d left the old Lédu’s village quite late the next day, after we’d learned some more of her version of the song of the origin, and after we’d had another turn at the oil mill — Lédu says is is a press, not a mill, but there are stones that turn and turn, so I think it’s a mill, at least in Ilaini.
From there to the fire mountain wasn’t very far! We could see the fire mountain already, had seen it from Lédu’s village, actually. It was very impressive at night! So we went up, and then down to the beach, where there was a village. It wasn’t very big, there were already a lot of people for the Fair, and at least three big Valdyan boats at anchor! And we could see Tal Havin, too, from the village beach.
So we did our act and since there was such a lot of people there already we got a lot of money for our act!
But Fekemme was really grumpy, like the country was getting to him, everyone was grumpy as I said, and I thought, let’s cheer him up and get some wine in the inn, he likes wine and it makes him cheerful.
So went in and got some really dark wine that was very tasty, and he was a bit less grumpy!
I met a Valdyan sea captain there and he was very cheerful, the most cheerful person I’d seen for days, apart from Fikmet who is nearly always cheerful and Mevi who is always cheerful! And he came from Selday, he said, and his ship, the Swan, she was a coaster that did between Istila and Selday and stopped at all the little places in between. Must be a good trade, and more fun than being really out at sea!
Then there were three Velihas people who wanted to talk to him, and they shoved me out of their way, just like that! So I gave one of them a kick on the shins and went to get that tasty wine that made Fekemme much less grumpy.
He then told us he’d got a kind of feeling of being followed or watched, a feeling that something bad would happen, to him. He’d had it for days! So we thought, let’s see whether we can find who is doing the watching, and in the meantime, slap a seal on Fekemme so he wouldn’t feel the watchers at least. It was a beautiful seal and made Fekemme much easier, so he looked around, and then suddenly huddled together with us, keeping his face out of the light!
He said, he’d recognized the people, two men and a woman, talking to Captain Aldan, they were people from the Tribe of the Honeybee, their name in Velihas sounds like it’s a sweet for after dinner! But they weren’t sweet! They were really nasty! They were the elders of their tribe and they have been trying to become King of Velihas for ages and ages!
And Fekemme got really scared, because he’s got something he calls his birthright, and that can be stolen, he says! He got it after camp, and Lelem has it, but Mara not yet, because she didn’t go home after camp yet, and his mum and dad, of course.
He says, he can share his birthright with anyone from his tribe or anyone who doesn’t have a tribe (like me, he said), but that it can also be STOLEN! It’s a real thing, I guess, not just an idea. And if it’s stolen, the people who have got it can claim to become King! And that is what they were planning, those Honeybee people!
Fekemme belongs to the Bear, just like Fikmet is Dawn. He couldn’t share it with Fikmet, he said. As for me, I’m just boatpeople, were not a tribe! (And we’re not a guild, either.)
And I am so sure that all the talk of the people in Istila, stealing small children for Iss-Peran, all that was just a lie, that they were really plotting with Lár of the Honeybee and his people!
And they were asking Captain Aldan when he would leave, and that they wanted passage but that there was a final passenger on his way, and they couldn’t leave until he had arrived.
But we went out and finished the wine under the cart, with fat, strong seals all around, and I had told Wolf that she could bite Lár and his mates if they came close, so she was guard!
And the next morning, Mík’s mum, she said, they were with the Honeybee, too! But she promised us that they didn’t want to steal Fekemme’s kingdom! And then we had to decide what to do. It was very complicated, because we really wanted to visit the Temple of Naigha in Tal Havin, but also wanted to leave as soon as possible.
The village head, he was easy to spot, he was the fattest man in the village, he said he knew Lár, but not about his plots, and he said Lár and his mates, they had gone up the Fire Mountain to the Honeybee holy place, and would come down in the afternoon, and he said, should he try to hold them up while we made our escape?
And we said yes, but I was like, it’s like running away! But after a lot of running around and making plans, we finally made a real good plan. We decided not to ask the priestesses from the Temple of Naigha to bring us to the island when they’d return the next day (they had arrived and setup their stall that morning), but to ask a fisherman to bring us to Tal-Havin for a shilling a person, and we’d go and pray, and then the next morning, we agreed with Captain Aldn, we’d join his sailors who were at the temple to pray, and we’d go directly to his ship and sail for Sarabal, as mates.
So we did that!
And I rowed the boat all the way to the island, over sea. It was choppy, but the boat was very well made, I have to say that! It sort of slithered through the choppiness and we made very good time, and I wasn’t even really tired or anything!
Only Fekemme, he blushed! He was looking at me while I was rowing, and I spotted him staring at me rowing, and then he blushed, that was really stupid. If he’d wanted to take his turn, I’m sure he could have, so I asked him, but he said no, and then looked the other way.
The island is pretty neat! There was a path through a nice, leafy forest, and we followed that, Mík, Fikmet, Fekemme and me. And then we encountered a sheep that was running away, and a little bit later, a priestess that was running after the sheep, so we helped her catch the sheep, well, Wolf did, really. He was very gentle with the sheep, but she couldn’t move away anymore.
She was also big with lambs in her belly! Spring, spring, spring! I so hope we’ll be in time to see the wetlands flowering!
And we took the sheep and followed the priestess to the temple. It’s in a little hollow in the island, a bit like the hollow where we met Lan, it’s round and mountains all around. It’s also a bit like the hollow in the Island of Timoine! And in the middle, there was the temple and stables and houses and fields where the sailors were working.
So we went in, and told Wolf to wait outside, because our priestess, she was called Aylin, she brought us to the High Priestess, Mother Selle, and she was really fierce! And also very nice, she was in a big room with huge windows with glass panes, all very neat, and she sat there — her robe was all white, not white and black like the robes of ordinary priestesses, and she was a dear. So I gave her a cuddle, and she and Fikmet had a long talk.
I don’t have much to do with Naigha! Not me — nobody I love has died yet, even my granny is still alive! But Fikmet is always thinking about her mother, she can barely remember her. And so we went into the temple, where Fikmet prayed a lot. I hadn’t got anything to do there, so I just looked at the building and things, but it was a very peaceful place.
And when Fikmet came out she was so happy!!! She’d asked Naigha about her mother and Naigha had shown her that she hadn’t seen her mother yet, Fikmet said Naigha had said “No, she isn’t mine yet.” And that means she’s still alive, of course! It would be so awesome if Fikmet could find her mother and have a cuddle and show that she’s still alive and doing well!
And then we gave our act, for Mother Selle, and she really liked it. Afterwards, in the refectory, there was food. Lots and lots of it! No meat, but bean soup and bread and stewed turnips and cheese and fish and more!
Not so much fun was the dorm, though. There was one for men and one for women, and Mík and Fekemme had to sleep in the men’s dorm, and Fikmet and me, we shared a cot in the women’s dorm. I’ve gotten really used to sleeping in a nice little nest, with Fekemme at my back, Fikmet and sometimes Mevi huddled under my arm and then Mík the other side of Fikmet and Wolf on our feet. It’s nice and warm and safe! (And now we’ve got hammocks on the ship, and you cannot share those!)
This was a bit lonely and made me believe for real that we’d have to say goodbye to Mík in the morning, when we’d leave with the sailors for Valdyas, and he would go back to his parents after the Feast of Timoine, he would have that here in the Temple of Naigha.
Good for him, though, that there are plenty of children here! We’ve seen quite a few babies and toddlers and even our own priestess, the one with the sheep, she had the cutest little boy. I asked her, after I had hesitated a bit, about how they went for men at the feast of Naigha, and she said, they would have plenty of pilgrims, so they didn’t need to go to the pirates. Imagine having to sleep with a pirate! I think I’d sooner die!
In the night, I did look for Lár on the Fire Mountain, with semsin, and I did find them. They were still up and busy, and the Fire Mountain looked very irritated. So I wondered, because Mík’s mum had said, the Honeybee were with Anshen, while the Bear are Mizran’s, is Anshen helping Lár? But when I sneaked down to the kitchen and prayed at the kitchen fire, Ishey-style, after politely knocking three times, Anshen was very clear — he wasn’t helping Lár, oh, no! And that’s why the Fire Mountain was so irritated. Anshen was pretty pissed with Lár for abusing his (Anshen’s!!!) power this way!
Because the Fire Mountain, it’s very much like the island of Timoine — it’s of Anshen, and what it is, can become Anshen, but it’s the power, not Anshen himself.
And now that I think of it! I am right, and Fikmet and Fekemme are wrong! And I can prove it! Because if this is Anshen’s place, where his power comes into the world, and that island was Timoine’s place — well! My Dad told me that our King has dropped all of Dol-Rayen in the sea because it was built on a place just like this, only the power was of the Nameless! So if Anshen and the Nameless have two different places, they are different and NOT the same, so there!
And the next morning, when we were on the Swan, we saw people from the village bring Lár and his mates down, and they weren’t friendly either, it was an arrest, I don’t think!
But before that, we had to say goodbye to Mík! And that was a bit sad, he’s been such a good friend. Well, I might come to Velihas again, I like it here, especially up north, in the forests where all the normal people live who are not grumpy all the time. But we hugged, and I gave Mík my knucklebones to play with, and I gave him my silver earrings that my brother Arin had given me last year at the feast of Anshen, for Mevi, to wear when she’s old enough to have her ears pierced. She’ll be so pretty!
And Mík gave me a little ball of paper, all sealed up with wax and said, open it in five years, and the find me and tell me if I was right. That’s very mysterious, but I put it in my purse, under the shillings and shall try to forget it for five years, but every night before sleeping, I cannot sleep, I’m so curious what he wrote! I didn’t even know he could write!
Fekemme left a big letter, three pages!, with Mík, to send on to his dad, telling him all about the conspiracy. He was sweating while writing it! I still need to teach him proper letters, too.
And we made a big huddle and a big hug, and then we had to go!
Oh… And I am really twelve now. It was the Feast of Timoine, after all.
There were twelve sailors and two rowboats belonging to the Swan, and I and Fikmet went in one, and Fekemme in the other and I got an oar, too, to row, so I asked, is it a match? And Aine, the first mate, she shouted to the other boat, is it a match? And so it was a match, and we rowed and rowed and rowed!
At first it was hard, because I had only one oar and had to go in time, but it was pretty easy, actually, because I could sort of sense when Aine would shout “up!” just before she would, after all, she’s gifted, too, and I got into the rhythm easy after that.
Life on board the Swan wasn’t too boring, we had lessons with Master Aine whenever there was time, she’s master in the Guild of Anshen! Our first proper lessons, but the problem was, we already could do more than that, like hang seals from the sails that blocked the way half-way the ship! It seems that not just Fikmet and Fekemme are going to be grand masters, but that I’m just as strong. And that makes us harder to teach! Fikmet said, Aine was teaching here the same things the same way Ferin had already taught her.
But it was all new to me, things like making a safe place and taking care not to leave my body, and so on. But it wasn’t hard!