Under Timoine’s protection
Nothing dangerous, nothing difficult, only one thing a little scary. It was about time for that.
In fact I-the-player didn’t think of asking the masseuse about Pegham until just now, when I was writing the scene.
I was glad that I’d asked Sinaya to wait a day until we sailed, because I really needed a day to do nothing in particular. I woke up late and felt so lazy that I pulled the bell-pull that I thought would call a servant, and indeed it did! “I’d like washing water, please,” I said, “and breakfast. And something to drink. Lots of juice.” That would probably help with the headache that I could feel lurking behind my eyes.
When the servant came back I was sitting on the edge of the bed trying to stretch. “Would you like a massage?” she asked when she saw how stiffly I was moving.
“Oh, yes, please!” I said, and presently a woman came into the room, carrying a basket. I could tell by the colour of her skin that she came from a lot further east, or south, or both, than Kushesh: so black that it was almost blue. She made me take off my shirt and lie down on a huge towel that she laid on the bed, and then pummeled and kneaded every muscle until all the stiffness was gone, and the headache as well.
While she was doing that she talked. All the time. “Are you really from Valdyas? Have you been to Valdis?” And when I said that I actually came from Valdis, “Have you seen the king?” Yes, I said. “And his son? That’s our king. He got our village as a birth present. It’s called Pegham.”
Yes, I knew that that village was called Pegham! I sat up –she was finished anyway– and told her that the prince had written a letter for me to read to the people of Pegham, because he wanted them to know that he cared for them and was thinking of them. “Shall I read it to you?” I asked, but she said that I must do that in the village itself, to all the people. And then she disappeared because someone else came in with breakfast, before I could think of asking her how she’d ended up in Kushesh. Pity, because it could have told me at least something about the situation in Pegham! In fact I didn’t think of that until much later, when we were already at sea.
When I’d eaten I left my room at the same time as Thulo –and, indeed, Parandé– left his. He didn’t look as if he wanted to say goodbye to her soon! He walked her home, while I got hold of pen and paper in the clerks’ room and wrote the last page of my letter to Valdis. Pages, in fact, because I wanted Athal and Lyse to know everything. Signed, closed, sealed, I could just leave it with the clerks on the pile of letters that they were going to send with the Rizenay ship anyway.
Thulo came back then, carrying an armful of papers and a single sheet. The single sheet was a poem to give to Parandé, but the armful of papers was much more interesting: a book, still unbound, listing all the countries, towns and cities on the northern Iss-Peranian coast, with handy lists of words in the local language and Ilaini and trade Iss-Peranian. The words were mostly of the sort sailors use on shore leave, but those about food and drink would be useful for everyone. I could see that some of the contents were really accurate –Kushesh was in it and we could see with our own eyes that everything was the same as in the book, even the place where we’d eaten pasties was in it– but some must be invention, like the picture of a man without a head but a face on his chest.
Thulo had paid twelve shillings for it in the writing-shop, ridiculously cheap! I was out of ink, so I asked him where the shop was so I could go and buy some, and see if they had more things that were as interesting. As I went out, I told the doorman to expect a ship’s captain with a letter for me to take to Albetire — clearly he hadn’t been yet, and I didn’t want to wait around for him.
The shop was very easy to find because there were sheets of paper hanging on lines in front of it, apparently to dry the ink. They were in different languages: I read the nearest one that was in Ilaini, and it was a recipe to make apple pie if you didn’t have apples, or flour, or butter! Another strange thing about it was that it had been written with every letter separately, even the ones you always join together, as if someone was just learning to write, but then the letters were very regular as if they could write very well and were making an effort. I shook my head over it and went inside. A boy in the apprentice age, looking half Valdyan and half Síthi, was cleaning something and getting very dirty himself in the process. “Good day,” I said. “My assistant bought a book here this morning, and it looks very useful.” He beamed. “I wonder if you can sell me some ink.”
He wiped his hands on a cloth that couldn’t really get any blacker than it already was and came to the front. “How many barrels would you like?” he asked.
“Barrels! No, I just need a refill of this,” and I handed him my empty ink-pot. “I emptied it with all the writing I did coming here from Valdyas.”
He filled the ink-pot from a barrel, with a long-handled ladle, and wiped it with the inky cloth. “Sure you don’t want a barrel? A little one to take with you on your voyages?”
Either my linen breeches and shirt said “sailor” to him or he’d heard about me. I laughed. “How much is a little barrel? The smallest you’ve got?” After all, I’d probably write a lot more yet, or I could give some away to people who had even more need of ink than I did.
“For you, only four shillings.”
I didn’t feel like haggling. “All right,” and I paid him and got the ink in my ink-pot thrown in for free.
From the back of the shop I could now hear intriguing noises. “What’s that?” I asked.
“Come and see!” He took me through an archway to a room where a thing stood that looked most like a felt-press, with a wheel on top and the felting bed at the bottom. A man and two children were working there, the man putting sheets of paper into the press, and the children snatching them away from the other side and hanging them on a line to dry. And the paper they hung on the line had writing on it, which it didn’t have when the paper went into the press.
“It looks like a wool-press,” I said.
“Good call! Are you from Rizenay?”
“Valdis actually, but I’ve seen it done.”
“You’re from Valdis? Is it true that the king has lost an eye?” He showed me one of the papers with writing on it. “Valdyans out of their country like to be informed of the king’s health.”
“Yes,” I said, “he fought the bandits at Hostinay at Midwinter last year and lost his right eye in the battle. They drove all the bandits away, though. I can’t say anything about his health because it’s months since I left Valdis, but I did see his eye-patch.” I wasn’t going to tell this man and all Valdyans out of their country how worried I’d been about Athal.
He took the felting bed out of the press. It wasn’t a proper felting bed, but a tray full of little blocks of wood each with a letter on it. They were strange letters, I could hardly read a single one! But apparently he could, because he ripped a handful out of the middle and replaced them with other letter blocks very quickly, then put the tray back in the press and smeared it with ink. He turned the wheel, the press came down, and a sheet with writing came out which he took from the boy who had grabbed it and gave to me. “Eyewitness news,” he said.
At Midwinter of the year five hundred and fifty King Athal of Valdyas vanquished the bandits at Hostinay, I read. An eyewitness told us that the king unfortunately lost his right eye in the battle. It is expected that the engagement of Crown Prince Vurian and Maya, the Crown Princess of Velihas, will soon be announced.
“I don’t know about Prince Vurian and the crown princess of Velihas,” I said. “He’s not even six yet! And a crown prince and a crown princess, which country will they rule then?”
“Six is exactly the right age for an engagement,” the man said. “Engaged at six, married at twelve, children at fourteen! And grandchildren at twenty-six. Well, twenty-eight.” I didn’t really agree but didn’t argue either; it wasn’t worth it. And anyway, he’d put what I had said on the paper exactly the way it was. “Can I interest you in these newsletters?” he asked. “Only fivepence each, and you can sell them in Albetire for tenpence, pure profit! How many will you take, a hundred, two hundred?” I was already counting on my fingers when he went on, “Twenty riders for the whole stack! Well, let’s make it ten.”
“Eight,” I managed to say. “But I’d like a bag to take them away in.” Later, when I did have the leisure to calculate, it turned out that two hundred at fivepence each comes to a bit less than five riders, but I don’t mind, I find miyself giving them away anyway.
“I’ll have them delivered to your ship,” he said. “Which one is it?”
“The Narwhal.” I paid him eight riders and went away slightly dazed, only to run into Sinaya.
“You too?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said with a grin, “but mine are up to date, I told him that the king had lost his eye and he changed it on the spot. It’s a splendid engine, though, that writing-mill.”
“I don’t hold with engines. give me a sailing ship every day. When did you say you wanted to go, tomorrow, right?”
“Yes, if that’s possible,” I said.
“Sure– but you’d better come aboard tonight because the best tide is a couple of hours before dawn.”
I went back to the house to pack. The captain had delivered his letter and someone had thoughtfully put it with the other letters I was taking to Albetire for various people. Thulo came back late in the afternoon, smelling of flowers and looking positively smitten. I carefully refrained from asking any questions. Instead, we had a final bath attended by Mialle’s servants and dressed up for dinner. My ordinary clothes were all splattered with ink!
Mialle and the general had really made an effort for our last evening. The dinner –I think I ought to call it a banquet– was in a room we hadn’t seen before, the size of the great hall in the palace in Valdis. We were at the table of honour with them, on a bit of an elevation on one side; other tables for four people were in a large circle. Servants came and brought us food and drinks, while dancers danced inside and outside the circle. The musicians were cleverly hidden, at least I didn’t see them though I could hear the music.
We ate and drank and talked, discussing everything that had happened. After some time –it must have been hours– Thulo stood up and asked me to dance. It was very irregular, of course, because none of the other guests were dancing, the dancers were all hired performers. Also I hadn’t danced since I was a village maiden, eight years ago or more. I felt gawky –as I had been when I was a village maiden– and it didn’t help that I was half a head taller than Thulo, but the music swept me along and other people were joining us and it was starting to feel like a party rather than a banquet, like a Midsummer feast at home.
There was a lot more dancing after that. I think I danced with the general, and I saw Thulo dance with Mialle, at least ten years older than me and much more awkward because of being out of practice even longer, but it didn’t matter, it was all joyful and festive.
Then Sinaya came into the room, looked around to find me, and said, “You’d better come aboard now! We sail in less than an hour.” Everybody came with us to the harbour, the party was still going on.
I hugged Mialle, “thank you for everything!” She hugged me back and said that she should thank me, but I told her that I couldn’t have done what I’d done without a safe place to stay, a house to feel at home in. “I’ll come back,” I said, “perhaps when I’m done travelling I’ll come and be your commander of the Order after all.”
We sailed off with music following us from the quay and people waving until we were out of sight. The sea was calm, though there was enough wind to fill the sails, and I didn’t feel sick even one moment. Thulo was less lucky: his face went grey and he took to his bed as soon as we were on open sea. Orian got me a large breakfast of fried eggs, and while I was finishing that the sun rose ahead of us.
I did take to my cabin later — I was starting to feel that I’d been partying all night. Orian was already fast asleep under the writing-desk, his feet moving in a dream as if he was a kitten.
This was the best sea voyage I’d had until now. The weather stayed fine, the wind stayed steady. I practised semsin with Thulo — if he keeps learning this fast he’ll be a journeyman in Albetire. We were in sight of the coast all the time: green mountains rising behind what looked like forest that went right down to the sea, with a bit of yellow sand every now and again. A couple of times some of the sailors went ashore to fill the water barrels, and sometimes they brought the yellow fruit that grew on the no-cllimb trees and nuts as big as my two fists with sweet milk inside, that I recognised because I’d had soup that tasted of it.
The coast looked empty, no houses, no villages, and in the sea only dolphins and porpoises (dolphins are grey and have a pointy snout; porpoises are brown and have a blunt snout. They all like to play around ships.) and no little fishing boats. “Doesn’t anyone live there?” I asked Sinaya, and she shook her head and said “Only monkeys. And snakes.” I knew snakes, of course –we had grass-snakes at home, and in Lenyas there are vipers– but I’d never seen a monkey, so the next time we went ashore with the sailors. When we’d filled the barrels at a small clear waterfall, and washed under it, strange creatures came out of the forest — apparently they’d been waiting to see if we were dangerous and decided that we weren’t. They were sort of human-shaped, but hairy all over with long arms and small bare faces, and most of them had very long tails that they used to swing on branches with. When they weren’t swinging on their tails, they climbed with both hands and feet. Some were no larger than a cat, some much larger — the largest would have come to my shoulder if he’d been standing upright. “Don’t smile,” a sailor said to me, “however funny they are, if you show your teeth they think you’re angry.” Some of the monkeys were showing their own teeth, to us as well as to each other. I avoided looking them in the eye, too, because I knew that dogs may attack you when you try to stare them down. One small monkey made a grab for Thulo’s shirt that he’d taken off to wash, but he snatched it from the animal’s paws and chased it of with a shout.
As we were going back. I said to fhe boatswain “Now we’ve seen monkeys but not a single snake!” and he turned me around, made me stand very still, and pointed to a tree. Hanging from a branch there was an enormous snake, as thick as my arm, moving very slowly. I’d have sworn it was some kind of vine. As we were watching an animal passed beneath the tree, the size of a small pig, with half a dozen young trailing behind it. The snake suddenly moved very fast, snapped up one of the young, swallowed it in one gulp and slithered away into the forest.
“Gods!” I said. “Where I come from the snakes are as thick as my middle finger and eat beetles!”
I took Thulo along with my mind once to see if there were really no people and we did find some in the forest, a gifted man and woman (the woman sitting down, the man pacing) and a handful of people who weren’t gifted, but Thulo was clumsy and I didn’t get him out in time, and the gifted people hid themselves and a few moments later we saw a short naked dark brown man on the shore waving a spear at the ship.
After about a week and a half we reached Dadán. “Hey!” Sinaya said. “They’ve got a harbour here now!” And indeed the ship sailed between a couple of stacked mounds of rocks to moor at a jetty. Several small boats came to bring people ashore, and I ended up in one of the first with a Valdyan woman, a journeyman in the Guild of Anshen, dressed in what looked like a collection of threadbare bits of army uniform.
“I’m Captain Ailse,” she said.
“Sedi, of the Order of the Sworn.” I was wearing the uniform from Solay which Orian had washed on the ship.
“Ah! Are we getting an Order house?”
That made me laugh. “That’s what they asked in Kushesh, and they had one for two days. Do you need one?”
“Not really,” the captain said, also with a laugh. “We’ve got the army. There used to be ten of us, now we are twenty, not counting the children.” And indeed, when we got to the beach I could see the army barracks on my left, and several small children came running out, mostly light brown as if Valdyan soldiers had married local people.
Before we got there, though, the captain pointed into the water, “Look!” There was what looked like a palace, or part of a town, on the bottom of the sea, easy to see because the water was so clear. “That used to be part of the emperor’s palace, offices and writing rooms.” I asked whether the ground sank or the sea rose to put the buildings under water, but she didn’t know.
There was a lot of cheerful chaos next; the people of Dadán had seen the ship coming and prepared to hold a feast for us. ‘We do that every time we see a ship,” the captain said, “but they don’t always stop here.”
“Oh, but I have a job to do here,” I said, “the king sent me to inspect his regiment and to make sure they know they haven’t been forgotten.”
“The king! So those girls made it to Valdis?”
“To Valdis and beyond,” I said, remembering what Athal had said about the girls who had brought the dispatches from Ashas. “They’re apprentice doctors in Turenay now.”
“They were nurses when they stayed here,” the captain said. “Ktab will be eager to hear about them.” I knew that name, it was on Lyse’s list of people I could trust without reservation. “He’s not here at the moment, out fishing. I’ll take you to Anusheh. His wife.”
Orian had found a friend: a girl a couple of years older and half a head taller, who he was standing practically nose-to-nose with. He had Thulo’s book behind his back and every so often he peeked at it and said something. Trying the language! She seemed to understand him, too. “Don’t lose the book, mind you!” Thulo said to him in passing.
The captain took us up into the town. It was a sprawl of mostly small white-plastered houses on the hillside, around a market with a fountain in the middle. People were buying fruit, filling jugs with water from the fountain, and when we passed we got greeted and waved at. The captain had a word for most people in a language I didn’t understand.
Eventually we came to a house in a narrow steep street where a woman was sitting on the doorstep. She was very pregnant and a large baby was sleeping in a basket next to her. She spoke trade Iss-Peranian, in fact she sounded exactly like Parandé, and as we talked it became clear why: Ktab had gone to Kushesh to find the apprentice doctors, who he’d become friends with (or even fallen in love with), and when he had no success he’d found Anusheh in a house of Dushtan’s and bought her free. “Paid four shells for me,” Anusheh said proudly. “It’s so good to have a man of my own, who loves me for myself, not because of–” She waved her hands, searching for words.
“Because of the illusion?” I ventured, and yes, that was what she meant. A little boy ran past and she caught him, “bring us some wine, will you?” and an even smaller girl was sent to get something to eat.
“You’ve done well by Ktab,” I said, “four children!” The boy couldn’t be older than three.
“Yes,” she said, “and I thought you couldn’t get pregnant while you still had one at your breast!”
“Some can, some can’t,” I said, “my mother had nine in twelve years.”
“Nine! Ktab would like that, But I think I’ll try to stop at four.” She patted her belly pensively. “He’ll be back this evening, went to catch something good for you people. Oh, thank you.” The boy gave a jug to his mother and handed cups to everybody. Anusheh filled them with a cloudy white liquid. I tried a cautious sip; it tasted tingly-sweet and ever so slightly like rotten fruit, not enough to be unpleasant. “Palm wine,” Anusheh said, “it doesn’t get you drunk.” I wasn’t so convinced, and from Thulo’s face I could tell that he wasn’t either, but we drank it anyway and ate the food the little girl brought us — I was so tired or distracted that I now don’t remember what it was.
It was nice to talk to Anusheh, but I got a mind-call that was so much of the Nameless that it disconcerted me. Somehow, this place felt so much not of the Nameless that it stuck out like a sore thumb. You’re in the Order right? You need to come here. I’ve got something to show you. I excused myself and went where the call came from, Thulo in my footsteps.
It was an old woman who met me on the road, a Valdyan woman with skin tanned to the colour of old leather. And yes, she was very much of the Nameless. Dealing with Merain and Senthi had made me a bit more resistant to that, but it was still uncomfortable. “I’m Maile,” she said. “Head of the Guild of Archan in Dadán. Frankly, also the only member.” She took me to a hut just outside the town proper, very dark inside, with bunches of herbs hanging from the rafters to dry.
Another old woman was lying in a hammock, and Maile kissed her on the mouth as she came in. Then she got a leather bag from a chest which she thrust at me, “that’s your concern, I think, it’s definitely not mine!” It felt like the Nameless– no, it wasn’t that, it felt like Seran, like the Resurgence of Archan. And indeed, the bag contained a stack of pamphlets like the one that had come into my hands in Solay.
Maile, meanwhile, was going off on a rant. “Came here and told me I wasn’t the head of the Guild any more, well, I sent them to the little house with the ants. Halla took care of the bones afterward, of course, she insists on that.”
I was so distracted that it took me a moment to understand that she meant she had killed the person or persons who had tried to oust her. Eventually it became clear that they’d recently got a Valdyan priestess of Naigha who had adopted the nearby ancient necropolis, but the villagers were accustomed to putting dead bodies in an abandoned temple in the forest to be eaten by ants; now they had compromised and let the ants eat the bones clean and the priestess bury them.
That didn’t have anything to do with the Resurgence of Archan, though. I riffled through the papers and found nothing new, except the realisation that they’d been here of all places and found Maile and recognised her, or had already known who and where she was and sought her out on purpose. “Just burn the papers,” I said, “Or feed them to some ants. It’s true that one of my assignments is to track down those people but I’ve got quite enough evidence already. Here, have this instead, it’s a newsletter from Kushesh, I can vouch for the news about King Athal because the man got it first-hand from me.”
Maile pored over it. “I can hardly read that any more, do you believe it?”
“Shall I read it to you?” I asked, but she wasn’t interested because the other woman had risen from the hammock –she was small and bent, and even older than Maile, I thought– and gave us all little cups of something that smelt like very strong alab. “Palm wine brandy,” Maile said. “Ezami makes it. Yes, drink it. For luck.”
Thulo didn’t really want it, “the last time I had brandy it didn’t agree with me!” but it was a small cup, and for politeness’ sake he cautiously drank it. At least there’s nothing strange in it this time, he thought to me.
After the brandy, the old women hardly seemed to notice us any more, so much were they wrapped up in each other. I pondered what Maile had said– I must go back and ask her who exactly gave her the pamphlets, and what direction the ship came from that brought them.
Thulo and I drifted towards the beach where it looked like our whole crew and half the village were milling around and fishing-boats were coming to shore. A young man was carrying a fish longer than he was tall with an impressive set of teeth, trying to hide the effort. He put it down on the sand and came to meet us. “You’re messengers from Valdyas, right? Did you bring a letter from the little nurses?”
I knew who this young man was! “You’re Ktab, right?” Yes, he was. “No, we brought a lot of letters, but none from them, I’ve heard about them, though, they’re doctor’s apprentices in Turenay. In Valdyas.”
He looked genuinely disappointed. “They promised they would write! Ah, well.”
“Perhaps they did write and the letter went astray,” I said, vowing to make a copy of future letters and send them by different ships. “I don’t think they knew the king was sending someone to Dadán.”
The preparations for a feast were now all around us. An elderly woman came up to us, dressed in a formal Iss-Peranian wrap that showed signs of wear around the hem. “I’m Parandé,” she said, “I have the trading post here. If you have anything to trade I’d be happy to pay in pearls, we don’t have much silver. It’s so hard to stay supplied here. We need cloth, glassware, ink, tools…” I thought of my little barrel of ink and wished I’d brought a big barrel after all, these people were living in the middle of nowhere and could probably really use it. I caught a passing sailor and sent him to fetch Sinaya so the two women could negotiate together.
Captain Ailse came back from the town. She had a man with her who she introduced as Cabez, the headman, incidentally also her husband. He went down one one knee to me as representative of the king– it made me a bit self-conscious. He and I didn’t have a language in common, so Ailse had to translate, but what he wanted –what everybody wanted, apparently– was for Dadán to be recognised as a barony under the crown of Valdyas. “We have Borma and the other villages with us now,” he said, “all the refugees from the sick forest, I’d say we’re large enough!”
I agreed with that, “if you have someone to be the baron I can institute them, and I’ll write to the king so he can confirm it. I have any power I need.” I hadn’t known that before, not consciously, but it was true.
They had already thought about that: everybody would accept Cabez and Ailse ruling together. “We’ll have to have an official meeting,” the captain said, “but that can wait until tomorrow! Let’s have the feast first.”
While we were waiting for Ktab’s fish to be ready and eating delicious little pasties (“Iki’s pasties are the best in the world!” and I could believe that) she said, “There’s another thing you might be able to help with– but that would mean you have to stay a bit longer, the people it concerns are in a temple in the jungle. They’re afraid of Maile.”
I could well imagine that people were afraid of Maile, especially if they were of Anshen and not used to dealing with servants of the Nameless. Gods, I would have been afraid of her if I’d met her before I left Valdis! “What sort of people?” I asked.
“They’re from Ashas,” Ailse said. That didn’t make it any clearer, but details could really wait until tomorrow.
“I don’t mind staying a week,” I said, “perhaps ten days.”
Then we had a party. Dancing, swimming in the sea, eating all kinds of delicious food. It was all vegetables and fruit and fish: the people of Dadán used to hunt in the forest, but the forest was sick. “Will the king come and heal it?” someone asked, and I said that the king did intend to visit his whole kingdom so it was likely that he would indeed come, but I couldn’t promise when. That seemed to satisfy everybody.
It was a beautiful night. Happy children were splashing in the surf. The gods felt very near, especially Timoine. I couldn’t tell whether Timoine was near because the children were happy or that they were happy because Timoine was with them; either would have been plausible, and perhaps it was both. Orian was dancing with his girlfriend, Thulo was dancing with several girls at once, and Ailse was telling me about people in the town, her sergeant Vurian who was a master in the Guild –“where is Vurian? Oh, I think his wife is having the baby right now.”
Just at that moment a woman dressed in grey came out of the barracks, spattered with blood right to the end of her long blonde braid, carrying a squalling baby. She held it up for everybody to see. “Child of Vurian and–” some name I couldn’t understand; clearly he’d married someone local, too.
“I suppose that’s your priestess of Naigha?” I asked. Her clothes had been positively skimpy, a very short skirt and a shirt that was hardly more than a bodice, but she had the snake tattoos and the braid all right, and the presence of Naigha (and also Timoine) with her.
“Yes, that’s Halla,” Ailse said with a grin.
A bit later Halla herself showed up, slightly cleaner, and plopped in the sand beside me. “Phooey! That was easy. But still a lot of work.” She was very young, perhaps Thulo’s age.
“Nice that you came to show the baby,” I said.
“Yes, we have to do that, show that it’s alive, because when a baby is born at a feast and dies it turns into a mourning feast at once. I hate mourning feasts! Same eating and drinking and dancing, only no lovemaking.” And she jumped up and grabbed one of the young men around the middle.
That explained Ailse’s grin. I raised my eyebrows. “Halla’s got charge of the city of the dead,” she said, “the old necropolis in that cliff there. She figures that Naigha is so close that–”
“Every day is the Feast of Naigha?”
There were portions of the huge fish –delicious– and more music and dancing and swimming under the stars, When the first glimmer of dawn showed in the east, Ktab came to fetch us to where a number of people were sitting and standing, singing something we couldn’t understand the words of, though the meaning was clear: it was prayer. It washed over us, expanded to envelop the people, the town, the land, perhaps the world. The gods came closer still.
“We learned that from the people from the forest,” Ktab said long after it was done. “We do it at feasts now, to greet the dawn.” And then he took us to his house, where Anusheh had spread a bed of leaves for us, and we slept while the day was starting around us.