Hard to fit in: Kehendaki realising that caring for people is important. But he did at some point work out that it is important though it probably doesn’t make you important. It was about a week from Kushesh — no, New Dol-Rayen — to “the city”, Solay or Aumen Síth, depending what language you spoke. And the city was SO BIG! We could see it from a long way off and it looked like white cliffs but it was white walls, at least ten people high! Lady Mialle called us and said “You’re not going ashore in the city! First, because it’s dangerous, second, because you don’t speak the language, and third, because I don’t want it.” “I don’t care about the first one much,” I said, “and the second is no problem, but I’ll do what you say because of the third,” I said. I didn’t want to get on Lady Mialle’s wrong side! “If you were a Valdyan child you wouldn’t care about any of those,” Lady Mialle said with a smile. And then she looked at Nadita and Selevi, “you’re not going out either.” Selevi was pissed about that because Arin was going to take her out! […]
The town was all full of people but everybody was busy! Where the ramshackle barracks had been there were several large tents, each with a sign in letters so clear that I could read them: BOUNCERS, WHORES, and so on. Kehendaki wanted to talk to soldiers, and I wanted to talk to someone who wasn’t a soldier but was working with them, but we couldn’t find anyone who had time to talk. Until we got to a place where some men in soldiers’ clothes were sorting through the rubble of a burnt house, and we went to help them for a bit. I picked up a bit of charcoal that looked good for writing or drawing. “Can I keep that?” I asked the nearest man, but he didn’t know, “you’ll have to ask the sergeant.” Well, we’d find the sergeant later, because Kehendaki had got talking with the other men. One was from Nalenay and another from Turenay, and all I know about those places is that they’re in Valdyas. They told him things about where they came from and that hurt one of the men so much that he had to go away for a bit, and his friend […]
We found a sharp stone to cut open the beast we’d caught and ate as much of the meat as we could. There wasn’t much on it and it was hard to get it off the bones, so we had to leave most for the foxes and we were still hungry. “Now let’s go to Lady Mialle’s house,” I said, but Kehendaki wanted to scout out the house first to make sure it was safe. We found another spot where we could see the back door, and look into the nearest courtyard, but nobody was moving where we could see them. There was smoke coming from a chimney near the door, though. “They’re cooking,” I said, “they must be alive!” We knew that Lady Mialle hadn’t been seen for two years, that she was probably sick but not dead because there’d been no burial. And if you’re sick and not dead, you must eat or you will die, so someone must be cooking for her.
(Note: this starts about six months after Khushi and Moyri visited Valdis.) When I came out of my mother’s belly I was the colour of cinnamon bark so she called me after that, Sinkauli. It’s a pretty name! I’m glad I’ve got it. There are lots of worse names to give a kid, like Kehendaki, that means something like “what we got as a surprise”. He’s okay though, we’ve been together all our lives like we’re brother and sister. But neither of us has a living mother or father or any family except each other. Sometimes when I’m almost asleep I dream of my mother, but that’s only a pair of soft arms and the smell of sandalwood and spices. We’ve been living in Ma Doryn’s house longer than anyone else, even Ma Doryn herself, she only came here a couple of years ago. We started out as rugrats, like the little kids crawling around now, but when we were five or so and could walk and talk we got to do some of the easy work, and got real clothes instead of a bit of rag, and real food instead of what happened to fall off the table or […]