Very hard to write because I was writhing with vicarious embarrassment.

I am so ashamed! For of course Morin was right, much as I hate to have to admit that. Well, I’ll start at the beginning. I took the boys to the queen as I’d made up my mind to do, only to find her in great haste because she was leaving to visit the poor quarters. Lydan’s girl Bebakshi came along because they clung to her like snails to vines, and also because she could understand the kind of Iss-Peranian they spoke and Lydan and I understood less than half of it.

Because the queen didn’t have time she told me to solve the problem myself, but the boys could stay in the sort-of-palace and so could Bebakshi, for now. I think she signed and sealed a freeing letter, too, but it was all so hectic that I’m not sure. “You’ve taken my girl away!” Lydan complained, when we were in the boat again, but I think he’ll get her back– I’m of a mind to find a woman veteran, or a man who has little kids of his own, who is going to Lenyas anyway, and have them to take the boys to my sister Rhani with a letter. After all Rhani’s eldest is much the same size, and there’s room enough at the manor for two more sprogs. Bebakshi is afraid of horses, and goats, and anything with more than two legs I think, so she wouldn’t want to live on a farm.

Then we went back to the house, where we found a priestess of Mizran, Halla. Not the king’s secretary I used to chase, who also started out a priestess of Mizran, but a youngish one sent to help us take inventory. She said she didn’t know much about valuable pieces from Iss-Peran herself, but her father did, it was his work, would I like her to get him? Well, yes, please, because I don’t know much (or indeed anything) about valuable pieces from Iss-Peran either. She did warn me that her father is a shrewd businessman, and his expertise comes at a cost, but it still seemed a better option than trying to appraise everything myself or taking the former servants at their word.

Halla’s father duly appeared; if he told me his name I’ve forgotten it. He’s a small shifty man, not one I’d trust on sight if Halla wasn’t vouching for him, but he seemed to know what he was doing. His fee is ten riders an hour, which seemed steep to me until he made me calculate how much the difference would be if we tried to sell some of the best items at too low a price, I hired him for the rest of the day –six hours– and promised to decide whether or not to keep him for a week, at a discount. I think, at the rate that we’ve been going, that a week will be enough to get all the real valuables stored and indexed. He tried to interest me in some books for the queen too, but I’ll have to take that up with her when things are less busy.

In the middle of the day Lydan prodded me, “are you going to do something with that dandar?” With all we’d been doing I’d plain forgotten her. Or perhaps something in my mind had kept me from thinking of her– which is something else again. Naravati (that’s her name) was very indignant when I told her I didn’t want any dandar in the house. “The king promised that everybody could stay in the house until they had other work; do you intend to break the king’s promise?” I had nothing to say against that, of course, except that the queen had forbidden dandar in Valdyas, and she could choose between two things, either leave Valdyas or stop being dandar. She said she couldn’t stop being dandar any more than I could stop being in the Guild of Anshen, or being a nobleman: it was what she was. Again true, of course, but I still wouldn’t have her in the house. Eventually she went and got her stuff –two little bundles– and came with us to the Order house, fuming silently.

Aidan was there, with his whole troop, playing cat and mouse with the prince from Solay– not the whole troop, only Aidan, and because the prince was a head and a half taller and twice as heavy it looked a bit comical. The prince had learned a lot since I last saw him: at least he knew one end of a sword from the other!

Meanwhile, the journeyman who had let us in fetched Morin. I’d forgotten how much he made one wish the ground would open below one’s feet! Lydan is much less sensitive to that –perhaps because he doesn’t see Morin’s anie— but I felt my knees as well as my resolution melt under his gaze.

I realised then, with Morin asking embarrassing questions, that I didn’t have anything to charge the dandar with except that she made me uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable, true, but getting used to that sort of thing is part of what I’m doing the job for, isn’t it? I almost took her back to the house with me, but that was one step too much– or would it have been the noble thing to do? I couldn’t see whether she was enthralling Morin with her dandar ways, or if it was me being prejudiced against her and Morin right and just. (And everything Morin does gets my hackles up, however right and just it is; it’s the way he does it.) Finally Morin agreed to keep Naravati in the Order house until tomorrow, when the queen can see her.

I sparred with Aidan a bit afterwards, but I was distracted and didn’t do as well as I might have. He called me a wimp –probably more accurate than he knew– and told me to practice more if I wanted to accomplish anything against the Iss-Peranians. I must admit that he’s right, it’s a good idea, if only to relax after working harder than I’ve been used to all my life. That I spent the rest of the day working so hard, though, was not because of the work but in order not to think about Naravati and how I wronged her. Whether I wronged her, that’s a better question. And what now?