Golden cages

Eduard wasn’t sure in which order things had happened, and wrote a back-to-front writeup (unchanged here); later, he realised that it was because he’d been making notes on the train home, freshest first.

The next morning at the Enshah’s palace the Crown Prince came to see us. He came with a bunch of armed men and was, relative to everyone around us, extremely informal. I must say I found it refreshing. It is a pity that this man is or represents a faction that we will most likely have to oppose. I think he represents continuing things as they have been. And that would mean no end to the ruination of children’s lives, no improvement in the skewed distribution of riches, and so continued rebellion and fertile ground for the Nameless to find more followers. And also, though this is a hunch not based on anything more then appearances, the army not leaving to fight the Khas. The prince seemed to be a military man and I would not be surprised if part of the army was here to fortify his position. This is just my intuition, since we heard that most soldiers were traditionally with the Nameless and thus probably in league with the rebellion and the princesses.

After the prince had left there came a delegation to ask Athal’s permission for me to visit the Enshah’s eldest and youngest wife. For a moment I contemplated how easy it would be if he just said no, but I wanted to meet them, so I gathered a following of women and a guard of female soldiers to escort me and went to visit them. We were led to a large garden with a lake, and by the lake there was another palace inside the first. In there the Enshah’s women lived. Our meeting started a bit awkward. I had no idea how they were supposed to be greeted and it seemed that they did not quite know either. I bowed to them the same way I did to the Enshah. That might not have been necessary, but I wanted to afford them the same kind of respect, because I did not want to place women below men, feeling a bit obstinate about that. The older wife, Ylish, really was very old, the mother of the two absent crown princesses. She retired after a short polite conversation.

I would very much like to know more of her two daughters. The older one, Khiarban, was apparently a witch. Rumour has it they can’t stand each other, but to my surprise I also heard that they could jointly take the Enshah’s place when he dies. The younger one, Yilde, I knew even less about. They may represent the Nameless’ and the people’s side to the rebellion. But perhaps that’s going too far, based on almost nothing, and it’s just my mind seeking patterns in all this trying to get a grip on things. We did hear that Khiarban was connected to something called “the widows’ league” and Yilde with something called Koll Konandé.

The younger wife, Asa, was just thirteen and really stunningly beautiful. Highly gifted too. I spent a long time talking to her and, though things stayed quite formal, I hope there was a connection there. She showed me around the palace. Everything there was very proper and modest. I did notice that quite a large fraction of the women there were gifted. When the day was starting to get too hot I said goodbye. She brought it to my attention that I was pregnant again and I noticed that she was as well, but promised to tell no one about it. During our talk I asked about the women being gifted, but all she could or would tell me was that is was something to do with women’s matters. Maybe she didn’t know, because like she said she had not been trained in them yet, or she didn’t think I was a woman to their ways.

Anyway, when I returned we got a tour of our facilities and saw a large empty area, meant for those not here –the people we left at sea– or maybe they hoped we would bring more. The villagers quietly let us know that all this was very nice, but they felt a little trapped and had not dared to leave the palace, partly because they were worried of losing their way. but also because the weren’t sure they would be allowed to leave. Athal told them that none of us intended to stay any longer than was necessary, but I still don’t think we will be going any time soon.

After that we were made aware of another interesting fact. A hidden passage was found that led right though the wall by our bed and under our thrones, ideal for listening in on whatever we were saying. So from now on we would have to say out loud only what we want others to hear.