He really belongs in the Ishey tribe now. It’s possible that he’ll have more adventures, but not right now, getting the house in order is much more important at the moment!
We settled down a bit. Strange, really, because the house was still full of all kinds of different people. Sometimes there were not only the girls from Faran’s house but two other girls of the same kind, and lots of neighbours dropped in, and a friend of doctor Cora came and drew pictures of all the babies and toddlers and also of me and Jilan because she said we had interesting faces. Every morning except the Day of Anshen I went to work on the house, and two evenings a week I went to school with Veh and Jeran. I didn’t mind school much, the food was always nice, and it was okay to learn to read, but work was much better! You could really see the house growing!
The doctor and her apprentices, when they were at the house, were running around and throwing their clothes into the laundry bin. Arvi would only let anyone throw clothes in the laundry bin if they were very dirty, or if there was blood on them, resin from the wood wasn’t enough, “you’ll only get more on it tomorrow! Or take it off and work in your bare chest like Veh!” And yes, Veh worked in only a loincloth even when it snowed, but I was glad of my thick linen shirt, I’d done quite enough bare-chested working this last year!
After a few weeks of working there was enough house that we could sleep in it! The stable was almost finished, there was even room on one side for the mule (though the hospital borrowed it all the time) and Honest Arin’s huge horse. It was nice to sleep above the horses, they kept it warm and made comfortable sounds in the night. At first everybody slept there, then we finished Veh and Asa’s room so Veh and Asa and the babies could move in, and then some other rooms so Mazao and Tao got one, and so did the doctor’s apprentices. The girls got in late most evenings, and sometimes not at all, and left so early in the morning that we didn’t see them often, but they still thought of themselves as living with us and not with the doctor. Only on the Day of Anshen after we’d been to the temple and to the bath-house they came the whole afternoon and did some building themselves.
Some time after we moved into the house the captain came back! And the captain and the doctor were so –well, loud– that everybody in the house who had someone to make love with wanted to make love, and everybody who didn’t made sure they were a long way away.
Then one Day of Anshen Tao jumped up and said “Today we’re getting the meat! Who wants to hunt?” I went, of course, and Jilan, and Ebru and Sabeh, and the doctor’s apprentices, and Tao himself. I hadn’t done much hunting before, except for Honest Arin and the others, but animals are almost as easy as people, the point is that you don’t let them see or hear you. Or smell you, Tao explained, because deer and things have much keener noses than people. You always have to make sure that the wind goes from them to you, not from you to them.
So we went into the wood beyond the house, and there was a little pool with lots of tracks that Tao said were from deer. We had our slings that we’d been practicing with, and the experienced hunters had spears too. We waited for a while until some deer appeared, a huge stag with large antlers and a couple of smaller ones, probably his wife and kid. Only the experienced hunters were to try for the deer, and they did (not me and Jilan) and it fell to the ground before it knew what had happened. We dragged it into the bushes and went a bit further where we’d seen more tracks. There was a whole herd of little goats, or sheep, or something like that. Woolly, at least. Now we could all take a shot as long as we did it together. We brought down four of the animals: one had two slingstones in its head.
That was at least enough meat! Tao took the deer on his shoulders, and the rest of us the goat-things, and we went into town to cook the deer in the school kitchen because that was the only place we knew with a large enough spit. And we’d give the goats to the school for the students to eat, as thanks for using the kitchen. (And one to Serla of the Guild of the Nameless, I don’t know why, perhaps just because she liked goat meat.)
We were about halfway through the town (and had met the doctors’ apprentices on the way) when two men on horses stopped us, in rich-looking clothes and with noses so long that they could only look down them at us.
“What is that?” one of them asked.
“It’s a deer,” Tao said, and he was right of course. Then the men started to make trouble, they said that we weren’t allowed to hunt, we should just wait until the gamekeeper saw us! One came so close that I dived to his ankles and tackled him so he fell on his back in the mud.
Venla –the apprentice with the dandelion hair– had a letter with the king’s name on it that he’d written with his own hand, that the Ishey were allowed in the wood. And also a letter from the lady who was the gamekeeper’s boss, I think. She shoved the letters under the man in the mud’s long nose, and he groaned and grumbled and his friend helped him get up and they rode away.
“What was that?” I asked, “they’re not gamekeepers, are they?” But Venla scowled and said that they were people who thought they were noble.
So we took the deer and the goats to the school, and Sabeh took one goat to Serla, and Tao showed me and Jilan how to dress the deer for cooking. And then we washed– and finally Arvi let us put our clothes in the hamper because they were covered in blood, of the deer, of course.
A couple of weeks later it was the Feast of Naigha! And we celebrated it in our own house, in the main hall that was now also finished sitting around the fire burning in a fireplace made from the bricks that Jilan and I had helped make.
We didn’t expect any priestesses, there were no unmarried men in the house at all! (Well, me, I have a knife so I count as a man, but probably only for the Ishey and not for the Temple of Naigha. Anyway, then Jilan and Jeran would also be men and they’re only nine and ten.) But there was a knock on the door all the same, and a girl came in dressed in a grey robe with a brown cloak over it and a braid over her shoulder, who did really look like a young priestess of Naigha! Tao and Mazao and Veh and Amre and Venla all knew her, her name was Ailin. They’d met her on their travels and she’d gone with them to a place where she could learn, but she hadn’t been happy there and now she was here.
Tao and Mazao looked a bit embarrassed, but it was a feast, and we had enough to eat (I’d already given her soup and bread, because she looked cold and hungry) and everybody agreed that a priestess of Naigha was good to have if we were going to have a real village here. So now Ailin is with us too, and we’re going to build a little house for her where she can live and work, but not until the spring, so she’ll have to sleep with the girls until then.