Sarabal

Hm, coming back to Sarabal to learn is a good idea for a later campaign…

The boat wasn’t that boring, not as boring as I thought it would be! We passed a few villages and islands — at some we anchored and then the captain and master Aine, they would go and do some trading. We mostly stayed on board, though, we were kept busy! There’s always something to do, and if we didn’t have the watch, if Fikmet didn’t have to go into the masthead to keep lookout, or if Fekemme and me didn’t have to re-stow the cargo or repair ropes or sail or make sail or reef sail or swab the deck or chase Wolf away from the cats or caulk the seams or… Master Aine had said that they didn’t have enough hands and she was right!

But if we had some spare time, and she too, she would teach us semsin, but she was very serious about it! As if everything was really difficult for her. Maybe it was…

Anyway, after twelve days, we arrived in Sarabal. Sarabal is famous! There are all kinds of stories about the Tower of Sarabal, which is high up on a chalk cliff. And it is said that there are ghosts in the Tower, and also that the baroness of Sarabal is a witch. There is also a wide beach beneath the cliff, with a village and what looked like a green valley coming down from the edge of the cliff. It was very different from everything we’d seen before!

But we had to work hard, lowering all the barrels and bales into the dory and then rowing up to the beach. There were lots of people waiting for us, everyone was glad to see us! The Swan would stay in Sarabal for another day, with half the hands on land, and then the other half, but we told Master Aine, that we’d stay here, since we wanted to go north, to the river.

And she said, fine! And that had done a lot of work, so much that we’d more than paid for our passage! And she gave us two shillings, one for every week. And that’s very fair, because we had worked hard and, after all, the other sailors also travel, and they get paid, too!

And then I made a new friend, she is called Rabia and she is from Jomhur. Her dad is an Earth Priest, and how strange is that? I mean, the Earth isn’t a God, it’s just the Earth! You might as well have a Sun Priest, or a Moon Priest or an Air Priest or a River Priest or whatever! But that’s what he says he is, and Fekemme and Fikmet say it’s true, but more of that later.

And Rabia took us home, she’s got a very nice mother who said we could wash and wash our clothes and sleep in their place, and the cutest little brother, Akruti! I put him on my shoulder when we walked to their house, it is cut right into the cliff! It is a hole! And at the back, fresh water comes into a bath, and we could wash ourselves and wash our clothes, we should have bought two of everything! Now we’d been wearing our clothes since we left Istila, and they were so filthy, it looked like soup in the kettle after we’d done washing them, but it wouldn’t have tasted good and I had to stop Akruti from tasting it when I said it was like soup, he wanted to try.

And my good skirt is too small and my good shirt is too small, even my clogs are too small! I’ve been growing like runner beans this year. But Pnimah, she’s Rabia’s mum, she lent me clothes, well, I say ‘clothes’, but it was just a really big square of something thin and colored but when they’d wrapped it around my breast, it came to my ankles and it was a dress. But Rabia’s dad, he’s called Rikhi, he came in when I was washing, I had to blush! So Rabia sent him back, deeper into the cliff, their temple is deep inside and Fekemme and Fikmet went there, but me, I found it just as scary as the ruby mine.

The dress really made me look grown-up! Partly because it was knotted up over my tits so it looked like I had more there than I have, partly because it was what all the grown-up women were wearing. Fekemme liked it a lot, he said. But it wasn’t very handy, as soon as you start to run or climb a tree or play, it starts slipping! I noticed that when we were hanging out our wet clothes on the clothes tree outside, me with Fikmet on my shoulders.

A few small children came running when they saw us, and asked us what we were doing, so I said, we’re acrobats! And they asked, acrobats, is that standing on someone’s shoulders, so I said yes, and they went to try it, too.

But I asked Rabia to bring us to the witch, that’s to say, to the baroness.

She doesn’t live in the tower anymore, but has had a house built in the village. That’s because she’s very old, as old as the High Priestess of Naigha in the temple of Tal-Havin!

She was sitting outside, sunning herself, in the spring sunshine, in the courtyard of her stone house. I immediately knew as soon as I saw her that she wasn’t a witch, she’s with Anshen, just like us.

So we went up to her and told her who we were, and she had to smile when Fekemme told her he was a prince of Velihas, and when Fikmet told her she was Khas she said they’d had a lot of Khas here, too, but that the king had taken them all to Valdis. And when I said I was from Tilis, she said she was, too!

So we discovered that she’s actually family. Well, everyone in Tilis except for our baroness is family, of course, one way or another, but she’s the cousin of my grandmother! So she’s really my auntie, my Auntie Senthi!

And I told her why we wanted to go north as straight as possible, to see the river and the wetlands when they flower and she said, she hadn’t seen that for years and years, she never ever leaves Sarabal anymore! So I put my cheek to hers and showed her, with my spirit, it was really easy, the memory was so clear… And I got ever so homesick!

But then a very, very strict lady came to us! I could see she didn’t like sitting on Auntie Senthi’s chair’s armrest, so I jumped up and stepped back. Auntie Senthi whispered, that’s Sidhan, she does for me! And I thought, well, she’d do for me, too! She was a priestess of Naigha, too, all in gray. And she pulled and twisted my Jomhur dress straight because it had gotten loose a bit and was sagging down my tits. I’ve given it back now, but I’m afraid I also made a lot of stains on it! That got me a bit of frowning from Mrs. Sidhan. But I can’t help it that that pig got loose in the orchard!

And Mrs. Sidhan started fussing around a bit around Senthi, then took a look at us and said, she was going to teach about the moon going dark in the classroom soon, and shouldn’t we be there? I was a bit dubious, but Fikmet and Fekemme were all for it.

So we went down again, and there was a square building with the windows shuttered and already quite full of people!

And Mrs. Sidhan started explaining how the moon and sun made rounds around the world, and how, if the sun was there, and the moon there, and everything just so, the light of the sun would be blocked even though it was time for full moon, since, of course, the light of the sun is also blocked when it’s new moon.

And she had a lamp and a mirror and big wooden ball and made people go round each other holding the lamp, the mirror and the ball, and on the ball she’d painted Valdyas! It was a map on a ball! And she explained it very clearly, but it’s also very complicated, so I’ve already forgotten all about it, except what I’ve written down now. The sums are really difficult, and she also explained how to do the sums to figure out when the moon will be dark when it should be full, but why do those sums when someone else already has done them and can tell you when it’ll happen?

It’s not like the price for a load of linen, which is different every time and besides which, you cannot trust the other person to have summed up fairly! The moon won’t cheat you, Airath of the Double Spindle Weavery will! If he gets a chance, which he won’t, not with me.

And that night, and that’s why there was the extra lesson in the school or temple, there was a moon-going-dark-according-to-the-sums! And we were invited, that is, to the big feast in Auntie Senthi’s house’s courtyard. When we got up again, Fekemme volunteered to help kill a sheep, and Fikmet and me, we helped out in the kitchen. Mother Maile was really glad to have us! She had come to Sarabal, years ago because she had a lung sickness and the little doctor from Iss-Peran had sent her to Sarabal because the sea air is good for the lung sickness. And she’s very fit, and very pretty, too!

The food was awesome! There was no fish at all, at least, I only had mutton and stewed turnips and dried apples and wine, and Fekemme also had some wine, but not too much. And there were lovely sweets made from orange skin by Rabia’s friend.

And then we made some music and then we doused the lanterns that Fikmet and I had hung around the courtyard — it was a game, we were faster than the two boys with a ladder because we did it acrobatically, and it was dark, with only the light of the full moon, and then… Big chunks of moon disappeared! And then the whole moon was gone! And then chunks appeared again — it was exactly like Mrs. Sidhan had shown us!

And then it started to rain, so Fikmet and me, we ran off to get our good clothes from the tree!

That night we didn’t sleep together again!!! I so miss it when we don’t do that, I miss having Fikmet and Fekemme dream, and I don’t know what they dream or anything, just that their dreams sort of touch the edge of my dreams, that we’re, well, together! But Fekemme was told by Rikhi that he had earth-semsin, and he was to sleep deep inside the hole! And Fikmet wanted to try sleeping on the earth, too, so I was the only one on our pallet of sea-straw.

I also wasn’t comfortable because I had the belly-ache, but I didn’t have to go out to the place, as I first thought I had to because I might have had too much mutton, but Fikmet didn’t believe that — she said, when ever did you ever eat too much?

And she was right, I hadn’t eaten too much. It just hurt, and I’m so afraid it’s that stupid growing up business again! I don’t dare ask anyone about it, it’s so stupid, but what shall I do if it is my first time of the month and we’re in the middle of the badlands between Sarabal and the river, and I cannot wash?

I hope it’ll keep until I’m home and can ask mum what to do!

And then, the next morning, there was maize-porridge, and even with honey it was… It tasted sort of like it didn’t have any taste! But Akruti loved it and finished my bowl, and later we heard that Auntie Senthi had had the corn brought specially from Jomhur for her Jomhur people. But it wasn’t much help, and Fikmet and Fekemme were too excited about all that deep-in-the-earth-stuff, too. Only Fikmet asked about my belly-ache and I said, it was gone, and it was gone, mostly.

After breakfast, we went up to the temple of Timoine, there are people here from Jomhur, Valdyas but also from Solay, and the people from Solay had built a small temple for Timoine, and it was half-way up to the upper village. It’s just a hut with nothing much inside, except for a cat! And the cat, she was a she, one of the toms from the Swan came visit her whenever the Swan came here, and, well, visit her! And then he would go back on board the Swan like he’s any other sailor on shore leave! A pussy in every port!

We sang the Valdyan go-into-the-woods song for Timoine, the Festival of Timoine song, in fact, which we missed because we were in the temple of Naigha! And then someone came in, she came to bring flowers for Timoine and a bit of fish for the cat, and we went outside, to sit and think.

That’s to say Fikmet was thinking of Timoine, Fekemme was thinking of the earth and of Rikhi, and I was bored! So I started playing with semsin, to see whether there were gifted people on the island I could see out in the sea. And there were! But they were all with the Nameless, so I stuck my tongue out at them, made of semsin of course, otherwise they couldn’t see me, and now they were really surprised! And I could also see the people in the little village to the east, where we hadn’t stopped, but they were all sorts, some with Anshen, some with the Nameless.

In the end, we went down, I went to visit Auntie Senthi, Fikmet and Fekemme went to Rikhi, Fikmet wanted to get into the earth, too, if I understood what she was saying because she’d been scared to death in the cave in which the Khas sorcerer had kept her locked up, and she wanted to get rid of that fear.

That’s pretty brave, it really is! It’s true she isn’t scared of being underground like I am, but she still went out to see what she was afraid of! And later she told me that she’d gone deeper and deeper until there was no deeper anymore, and she’d been screaming at her fear and made it go away! And we could hear the screams all over Sarabal, she was screaming in Khas, and she screamed right through the seal!

The scary bit, for me, was that both she and Fekemme were gone until I heard her scream!

I was really afraid when I noticed that I couldn’t feel Fikmet and Fekemme in my mind anymore, they were behind a big, fat seal and they could just as well have been in Solay for all that I could feel them! And the moment they were gone, I missed them like, like, like I don’t know what! And then we talked about getting back to Sarabal after we’d been in Valdis to give Fekemme’s dad’s letter to the King, and learning from Rikhi and Auntie Senthi, and I said, don’t hide from me like this!

And they said, but you’d be scared to death if you would be with us in the cave, even if it’s just your mind, but I said, sure, but I am scareder if you’re gone!

In any case, the reason why we think we might go back to Sarabal is that Fekemme would really like to learn from Rikhi but also that I would like to learn from Auntie Senthi before she’s dead from old age! She’s already eighty-five or so, and she says she’ll be a hundred, so I have fifteen years to learn from her, and she’s a really good teacher!

Because she has taught me how to make fire! I made fire all by myself, well, smoke and sparks, but that’s a good begin, I think!

And tonight I don’t want them to sleep in the cave, I want to cuddle up again against Fekemme and have Fikmet cuddle up to me and then sleep.