Wow, we got going with a vengeance.
One out-of-character moment but I couldn’t resist: when we were faced with a couple of locked doors, I said “I’m a Queeste player; is there a bunch of keys hanging on the wall?” and indeed there was. In Queeste, you have to ask for the obvious because it’s there for you to notice, but only if you explicitly pay attention. Real people in a real cellar would of course have spotted the keys immediately, even though they only had one candle.
“Aren’t you a bit young for this?” has become a running joke, and we’re now saying it ourselves. Also, Venla seems to have learnt teasing from the Ishey boys.
At some moment I’ll have to start calling Zendegî “Amre” as she herself is already doing (as well as everybody else), but Venla still thinks of her by her Iss-Peranian name.
After breakfast little Athal left to go to school in the next village –there were three, Tal-Borin on the Mera where we were, and also Great Tal-Borin between here and the castle, and Little Tal-Borin a bit further on. We talked about what to do, and decided that we must really go to the castle, we couldn’t leave Veh there, especially if he was wounded and needed our help. “But be careful,” Rava said. “I don’t think I can help you –they won’t let me or my children in– but Lochan, that’s the carpenter across the square, is with the Nameless, they think he’s their spy but he’s on our side really.” “But what if he really is their spy?” Zendegî asked. “Well, he does occasionally tell them things,” Rava said with a grin. “He came here twenty-four years ago with his girl, from the civil war. He’s a pretty decent fellow.”
The village was so small that we could see all the houses, a dozen or so, and it was clear which was the carpenter’s because he was working in the yard, finishing a large sturdy-looking door. We waited until he’d finished –we knew not to disturb people while they were working with tools– and then he noticed us and greeted us with a grin. “My! What makes me deserve a visit from a budding grand master of the Nameless? And her friend, of course.” “Well,” I began, a little uncertainly, “Rava thought you could help us.” “Let’s talk about it then. Inside?” He took us through his workshop to a small room where he kept paperwork, and also some fine woodwork. A woman came –it must be his wife, for he kissed her– and brought us wooden bowls with steaming broth, strong and salty.
“What can I help you with?” Lochan asked. We explained that our friend was in the castle and that we were going to visit him. “And leave the castle with him?” the carpenter asked. “Er, yes, if we can. Or at least find out how we can get him out.” “And what would you have me do?” “Well, if we do get in trouble, we’d like to have someone we can call who will get in to help us, or divert people’s attention or something.” The problem was that I didn’t know what we’d be in for at all, whether we’d be thrown into prison the moment we arrived or could walk out after we’d talked to Veh and sleep in our own bedstead. But Lochan seemed to think it was a normal question and said, “Yes, I can do that– call me or Rava and we’ll help you if it’s needed. But if you ask me, I’d say that you shouldn’t go at all. Perhaps you’re a bit young for this.” “When will that end?” I asked in exasperation. “Oh, it will end, don’t worry,” Lochan said, “in ten years or so, when you’re married.” “We’re not leaving Veh up there in the castle for ten years!” “Well, please yourselves then,” Lochan said. I liked him! Even if he was with the Nameless.
Then we went back to Rava’s house to put on decent clothes. We didn’t have much that made us look like ladies! “Except the Ishey clothes,” Zendegî said. So we put those on, and that earned us approving looks from Tao, “you look bossy! Just what you need with that lady up there!” He was coming with us, of course, we couldn’t keep him from that even if we’d wanted to. I went to sit at the fire to pray to Anshen. Tao came along and knocked on the floor three times, as the Ishey do to get the gods’ attention. I asked for strength and courage to go with the way the Ishey clothes made me feel taller. It wasn’t as if I got an answer –Anshen doesn’t speak in words most of the time– but I did feel strong and bold and confident, and also I got a strong feeling that this was our work, something we had to do and nobody else.
“Well, let’s go,” Zendegî said, “no use putting it off any longer.” I put the emperor’s letters and my purse with the pearl necklace under the mattress in the bedstead and sealed the doors. When I told Rava, she said “Well, if you have to sleep in a musty unmade bed tonight you’ll know who caused it!” so I knew she approved.
We went north along the road –there was really only one way to go– until we came to the larger village, Great Tal-Borin. There were about twenty-five houses here, and in the middle the ruin of a big house, parts of it stone but most of it clay like the Ishey houses. There were goats and chickens scratching around in the ruins. We looked around to see if anybody was gifted and found half a dozen people in the fields, two of the Nameless and four of Anshen. In the village itself there was only an old man, also of Anshen, sitting outside a house drinking ale. He greeted us with his mind (“oh, you’re Rava’s guests!”), and we greeted him back the same way. We talked for a bit, still with our minds, and he told us that the house had belonged to the family who had had the castle before the House Tavalyn, but they’d preferred to live in the village among the people they were taking care of. I could tell –though he wasn’t saying it– that he didn’t think the House Tavalyn was taking good care of the people.
At the north side of the village there was a small temple of Naigha. We could hear singing coming from it. It was the song with the letters that I’d learnt to sing in Lady Cynla’s school in Albetire! Athal must be in there, too. We went past it, on the path up the hill, or perhaps it deserved to be called a mountain because it was high and rocky. There were other paths going west and east but it was clear that we needed the one straight ahead. The higher we got, the more bare the ground, with only some sad grass and bushes growing on it.
The castle was right on top of the hill, a high blackish tower, some lower buildings with small windows built against it, and a gatehouse with one of Lady Lyase’s spear-bearers in front of it. He was smoking a pipe, I could smell tutun, and drinking ale from a tankard. When he saw us he grinned and called “Arin!” and the other spear-bearer came out. “The lady’s guests are here!” Then Arin took us through the gatehouse into a courtyard. It was much smaller than I’d imagined for a castle: on the right there was a well, then an open stable with rather a lot of horses in it, a dungheap, and we heard a lot of excited barking but we couldn’t see the dogs until we’d passed the stable. When the dogs saw Tao, they became even more excited and wagged their tails. “If you want a job,” Arin said, “I dare say Lord Lyam will take you on for his dogs. You only need to ask him.” But Tao would have nothing of that: “No, thanks, I want to see the whole world first!”
Now we were in the courtyard, we could also see that above the second floor the tower was ruined: the outside wall was standing but the inside wall was crumbled and fallen. In the far corner of the courtyard there was a flight of steps leading to a door, and Lady Lyase was coming out to greet us. “How nice that you have come after all! Come in– your friend is asleep at the moment, but the girl will come and tell us when we can go up.” Then she took us to a big bare room — the great hall of the castle. Half of it was plastered white, and there was a great fireplace at that end with a large gilded fish on a shield above it, like some of the river fish we’d caught to eat (only made of wood, of course), and the other half was in the old tower and the walls were bare. In fact the whole room was bare, not at all like the palace at Solay or even Lady Jerna astin Rhydin’s house.
It was really cold here, not just chilly like in the courtyard, except near the fire. There, on a low chair, Lyam was sitting. His shoulder was bandaged and his foot was on a stool. On the other side of the fire there were a couple of chairs where Lady Lyase made us sit. Then a big man in Valdyan clothes came in, though he was darker than most Valdyans, perhaps as dark as me, so half Iss-Peranian. He looked a bit upset when he saw us, but hid it quickly. “Oh, Ayran,” the lady said, “these are the young Ishey’s friends come to visit.” He turned out to be a merchant from Albetire, and indeed half Iss-Peranian: his other name was Azireh, and he had his two associates with him but they were away doing things. We very carefully didn’t say that we were from Albetire ourselves, though we couldn’t hide that we were from Iss-Peran when he spoke to us in the trade language, and very civilly too.
The lady had wine brought –I asked for water in mine, and Tao asked for water instead, and then I wished I’d done that too– and bread and cheese, and we ate and drank, feeling more and more uneasy. I was trying not to say too much, and when the lady asked us to tell stories of our adventures, it was hard to find a story that didn’t, so I ended up telling only half of each adventure! But then a girl came downstairs and said “My lady, the pris–” and Lady Lyase interrupted her and said “Thank you, Hylse, I’ll take the young people upstairs.”
We went through a little door in the tower part of the room, up a flight of stairs (there were also stairs going down), and ended up on a landing with a door on each side. Lady Lyase took the door on the left. We came into a room with a large bed that a fat middle-aged man was sleeping on. She thumped him awake, and he looked at us with bloodshot eyes. “Wha?” “We’ve come to visit the Ishey boy,” I said. He didn’t seem to understand it. “Meruvin, it’s time to get up,” the lady said, and the man got out of the bed and started to pull some clothes from a chest while we went through the door on the other side of the room.
This was another bedroom with a large window looking out on the courtyard. In the bed was Veh! He looked strange because his hair had been bound into a tail, and he had a big bruise on the side of his head. “You’ve really come!” he said when he saw us. “Let’s look at your rib and leg,” I said, but he wouldn’t be touched, “I’m all right, I’m not wounded!” “I don’t believe that one moment,” Zendegî said, and pulled the blanket off the bed. In the meantime, Lady Lyase and the maid Hylse stood there watching with strange expressions on their faces, as if they were expecting something amusing to happen. “I’d like everybody who isn’t going to help out of the room,” I said, “we have to have some quiet to work.” And they went! Still snickering, true.
Veh said something to Tao that we couldn’t understand, and Tao shrugged and said something back. “Do you Ishey have something against being touched by women?” I asked, but that wasn’t it, Tao didn’t know what it was either. “Let me look at your leg at least,” I said, and Veh pulled his nightshirt –very long, like Halla’s had been on me– up to his knees so we could see the leg. It was broken all right, but easy to splint, and he’d walk on it within weeks. “I’d caught a deer, and I was carrying it back to the camp,” Veh said, “and then the men from the castle came and said it belonged to the lord, and I wouldn’t give it to them, so they beat me up and brought me here. And they took my staff, and my clothes, and my knife!”
“I really have to look at your ribs,” I said, “but I can feel through your shirt if they’re broken.” And when I did that, I felt a badly broken rib, and one that was cracked, and a budding breast. So that was why Veh hadn’t wanted to undress in front of us! I didn’t know what to do for a moment, but then I said to Tao, “I think we need you to watch the door. On the other side of the door.” “To see that those women don’t do anything?” he asked, and closed the door behind him with a grin.
“Right,” I said to Veh, “Amre and I are girls too, you can take that shirt off now.” “But I’m not… I want to become a man.” “You’re going to become an Ishey man in the temple?” I asked. “A man on the Plains is enough.” I remembered then what Ayneth had told us, that she’d heard from a friend from the Plains that there were women living as men, men living as women, and also ordinary men and women, and said “oh yes, they’ve got all kinds there.” Veh let us take the shirt off and turned out to have a good sturdy girl’s body, bruised from the fight. We bandaged perhaps a bit higher than the ribs needed. “Er, did Lyam– did he do anything else to you?” No, he hadn’t, and right now he probably wouldn’t even be able to climb the stairs.
“Now for the head,” I said. That was hard: under the bruise there was a dent in the bone and it was pushing on the inside of Veh’s head and giving him a headache. (I couldn’t think of Veh as ‘her’ even though I’d seen it!) It took the strength of both our minds to push the bone where it belonged. “I could walk if I had my staff,” Veh said. I opened the door and found Tao there, arms crossed, looking angry, with the maid– fortunately the lady had gone. “What happened to Veh’s clothes?” I asked. “Oh, that dirty smelly wool thing and the hide? Burnt them, of course.” “So could you bring some clothes for him?” “I’ve got a skirt and a shirt for her, no problem.” “No,” I said, “just ordinary farmhand’s clothes, breeches and a shirt.” She went away, giggling. I asked Tao to lend Veh his staff so he could try to walk, and he grudgingly gave it.
When Hylse came back she did bring breeches, but the shirt and the jacket were both women’s cut. I didn’t want to make more trouble, and Veh seemed satisfied and put the clothes on. Walking wasn’t easy even with the stick, but he was relieved to be able to move at all.
Then Hylse and the other maid came in with straw pallets that they put on the floor, Lady Lyase behind them. “I thought you’d like to stay the night,” she said in her honeylike voice, “with your little friend. It’s getting dark, you wouldn’t want to go through the woods at night.” I could feel Tao scowl behind me, but she did have a point, so close to the castle I’d rather not be in a dark wood. Any other wood wouldn’t have been a problem. “Thank you,” I managed to say. When Lady Lyase saw that Veh was dressed, she said “Oh, you’re better? We’ll see if we can transport you to the village tomorrow.” That confused me a little, was Veh a prisoner or not? Was the lady lying, or did she want us all out of the way because there was something else we weren’t supposed to know or see?
While the maids were hauling, I looked out of the window and saw the merchant and his helpers talking to another man, presumably about a horse because they were pointing at it and shaking their heads. After a while one of the helpers mounted a different horse and rode away on it. “I wish he’d brought some more,” the merchant said. “Fortunately it’s not far, only to –” (I couldn’t catch the name). “With more merchandise– would that be worth the trouble?” “Haven’t you seen them, then?” the other man asked, and both of them went inside so I couldn’t hear more.
When we were finally alone in Veh’s room, we made the blanket seal that Tao had invented. It even smelt so much of goat that Veh could sense that. As I told the others what I’d overheard it suddenly occurred to me what it meant: “do you suppose that we are the merchandise?” A chilling thought, but probably true. “But you can’t sell people!” Veh said. “The Iss-Peranians can,” Zendegî said. But it was forbidden in Valdyas itself and the Valdyan part of Albetire, Queen Raisse had forbidden it, and the Ishey also thought it wasn’t done. “Then we really need to leave tonight! All of us!” Veh said. “Will you close the room for me when you go down?” Tao and Zendegî thought that wouldn’t be wise, suppose something happened to us and Veh couldn’t get out? “We’ll seal ourselves in when we get back from dinner,” we said.
On the landing we met a very old man who greeted us warmly and said that he was Fian astin Tavalyn. The old lord! He didn’t look intimidating, though he was clearly with the Nameless. He said that we were with the Nameless, of course. When we said that we were Veh’s friends, he nodded, “yes, the black girl.” “You should really be in our Guild,” he said, meaning me in particular. “Go to Ildis, it’s not that far on a horse.” “Well, we mean to go to Ildis anyway, we’d be glad if you could lend us horses,” I ventured. But the old man didn’t think that would be a good idea, he probably thought we were too young like everybody else.
In the great hall, people were talking about Essle, and one Prince Uznur who didn’t gave anyone a chance to bring in even an ounce of something I didn’t understand, because the army was checking all the ships. The talk stopped at once when we came in. Everybody else was there: Lady Lyase and Lord Meruvin, Lyam still on his chair by the fire, and all three of the merchants. The other two were a Síthi man, Rakor, and a Valdyan man, Orian. “Going south, Ayran?” the old lord asked. “A short way,” the merchant said, “and then we’ll be back when we’ve transferred the goods.” Then all the attention was suddenly on Zendegî and me, “you’re light-skinned for Ishey girls, aren’t you?” When they heard that we didn’t intend to get married right away, Ayran and Rakor’s look at one another made me shudder.
Lyam got up and hauled himself to the table to pour a cup of wine. He was walking with crutches, not as well as Veh did with only a staff. “We can do something for you if you like!” Zendegî said, but he, too, insisted that he was all right. “Boys!” Lady Lyase said. “Of course you’ll let the young doctors set those bones.” We didn’t even insist that we weren’t doctors yet this time, but tended to his injuries — dislocated arm, cracked shoulder and ribs, broken knee-cap –in three pieces!– that Tao said was Mazao’s specialty, he hadn’t even done it properly, it should be with the heel but he hadn’t been able to reach it. We’d let Lyam drink everything that was still in our bottle of brandy, a quarter or so, but it didn’t seem to have made him drunk or to do anything against the pain we couldn’t avoid. Not that we made an effort to avoid pain, this time, we just treated him like a wounded soldier, especially when he thought it was funny to make lewd comments. (And we didn’t show that we could use our minds for setting bones, either!) After we’d bandaged him, he was angry that he couldn’t move any more, “it was better before you tied me up like this!” “If we hadn’t, you’d be limping for the rest of your life,” I said. “As it is you’ll be riding again by the feast of — what is it now, Naigha? The feast of Timoine.”
Then the stablehands and spear-bearers came in and everybody sat at the table, and the maids brought in a whole deer –it must have been Veh’s– and also meat pies and sausages and bread and stewed vegetables. It wasn’t bad, but not as nice as Lady Jerna’s goose or the rabbits and fish we’d caught and cooked ourselves.
After dinner we went up to Veh as soon as we could, One of the maids was making our beds. We sent her away, saying we could empty the chamberpot ourselves. I went downstairs to do that, together with Tao because, frankly, I didn’t feel safe enough alone.
As we went down the winding stairs we saw a light at the bottom, below the ground level. Someone was coming up the stairs! We hid in a dark niche and stood there as silent as if we were hunting. It was Rakor, the Síthi, carrying a tray with half a dozen empty bowls on it. He disappeared through the door to the great hall and we could hear him talking with the other people there. “Now there are two with a fever!” “–But we’ve got a doctor here!” “–Yes, but she’s not supposed to know anything about it.” “–We were going to take them south anyway!” And a voice that clearly belonged to old Lord Fian: “I still intend to send them to Ildis, we might have a chance then. That’s what I’m paid for!” And Lord Meruvin’s voice, slurred with drink: “I do not, not, not, not want to have any more dealings with Archan! I don’t want to have anything to do with the Guild!”
We had to pass the great hall to get outside, and when we came through the door everybody was suddenly talking about hunting. Orian tried to flirt with me, and Tao challenged him, “want to fight?” but no, he didn’t, he probably thought of what another Ishey boy had done to Lyam. When we’d emptied and rinsed the chamber-pot and were on our way back upstairs, we heard barking in the courtyard: they’d let the dogs out of the pen. “To make sure we don’t get out,” Tao said, and I think he was right.
“There are people down there,” I said when we were back with the others, “in the cellar, about six of them.” We tried to see them, but it was hard, not one of them was gifted. “They’re probably locked up,” Zendegî said, “behind that new door with the new lock. If we get out tonight we should try to take them along.” “Can you handle dogs?” I asked Veh. He shrugged. “They’re animals.” But it would be better to leave by a way that didn’t include the dogs, because they would make a noise before Tao and Veh quietened them down.
Then suddenly we felt a lot more closed-in, seals of the Nameless were going up all around the house, on our door as well. That figured– not to lock us in as such, but to seal the door of the lord and lady’s bedroom. It was a very sloppy seal, any of us would be able to take it off in no time without Lord Meruvin even noticing. But we’d have to wait until everybody was asleep: after all there was no other way out of our room than through theirs. After a while we heard voices, drunken bickering, then snores. I took the seal off, it was indeed easy. Lord Meruvin woke up and said “What?” but his wife told him to go back to sleep, and when they were both snoring again we crept through the room as softly as we could. On the landing, Tao sealed the lord and lady’s room from the outside, in the way we’d have to learn from him because it was splendid: he convinced the door that it had hinges on both sides, so it couldn’t open one way or the other.
The stairs were hard for Veh, Tao had to carry him most of the way down. When we passed the great hall, we heard some people in there still awake, one telling the other to go to sleep, “I can’t sleep if you’re pacing so!” “But we’re leaving in four hours!” “Go to sleep, man!” We passed the door soundlessly and went on down to the cellar, where there was a candle burning in a candlestick on a small table. Two doors, one old and one new –we knew that door! It was the one Lochan had been making, with Rava’s new lock on it– and two bunches of keys hanging on the wall in plain sight.
We went through the old door first, because that felt like the people we were looking for were behind it, but this was only a storeroom with packs and saddlebags and a second door at the back. Also, there was another small table with a brown leather bag lying on it, full of letters I couldn’t read because they were, I thought, in Iss-Peranian. (And this time we didn’t have a handy Prince Namak to read them for us.) I put the bag somewhere in my clothes and then noticed that Ishey women’s clothes are very white— Zendegî and I both rubbed dirt from the floor on ourselves, making the clothes grey and grubby, much better for sneaking around in the dark.
This door also opened without a sound –they’d oiled the locks!– and in this room, sitting on a floor strewn with straw, we found our people: five children, all younger than we were. Valdyan children, all very pale, three of them with the kind of white hair that only some Valdyans from the north have. The two youngest, girls of about four, both looked very ill. I put a finger to my lips and whispered: “I’m Venla. We’ve come to take you away from here. Be as quiet as mice!” We didn’t know yet how we’d get past the men and the dogs –still, Tao and Veh could probably handle the dogs– but I was sure now that we’d find a way. “Let’s try to call Rava,” I said to Zendegî. It took a while until we could find the right way to call to someone so far away, but once she heard us it was easy. “What? Children? I’ll make sure there are enough of us outside the gate to keep you safe. We’ll need an hour to get there, though.” That didn’t matter, we thought we’d need an hour to get out unseen, too. “How many people in the castle?” About fifteen, counting the servants and the guests, I estimated. “Oh good, we thought it was a whole regiment, we can handle that.”
The children were chained up, but fortunately all with the same padlocked chain, and the key to the padlock was on the keyring that Zendegî was still carrying. We locked both the doors on the outside –let them wonder– and then tried the new door, with the new keys. Behind that, there was a kind of square well with rungs going down! Tao climbed down with a candle, and came back to say that there was a passage going into the hill. We looked at each other, all thinking the same thing: a way out, without having to pass the dogs and the men.
We got the small table from the other room and wedged it between the door and the well, so it would be hard to open — I thought of putting a seal on it as well, but I didn’t think I’d have the strength for it after calling Rava. Tao went down first with Veh on his back, then the eight-year-old boy, the six-year-old girl, the five-year-old boy, and finally Zendegî and I each with one of the little girls. As I stepped on the rungs I heard angry voices, men arguing about the keys, “Ayran put them in his pocket again! And there’s a fucking seal on this door– Meruvin must have done that!” They didn’t know that it was only wedged shut, of course, none of the merchants could see the difference.
This passage was really scary, becoming lower the further we got. Tao had to creep on his stomach with Veh on his back, and the bigger children had to walk bent over, the little boy bumped his head every now and again, and Zendegî and I went on hands and knees with the little girls bound up in our dresses. It was damp and dark and smelly, and I was afraid all the time that the men would come after us and we wouldn’t be able to get out, but then Rava called to me, very clearly, “Where are you? You look as if you’re in the hill!” And she said she’d send Jeran and young Rava around to where we were likely to come out. “We’ve got about thirty people at the gate, we’ll keep them occupied.”
And then we did come out, in the wood, and we could hear running water and see the shapes of Rava and Jeran against the starry sky.
We were barely on our feet and on our way along the river –Rava carrying a girl in each arm now, and Jeran with Veh on his back– when we came to a clearing where a man was waiting with horses. He was smoking a pipe, I could see the fire in it flaring up. Tao and Veh argued in frantic whispers for a moment, then Tao took out his sling and felled the man with a stone. “I hope I haven’t killed him!” he said, but he was indeed dead. Tao went through the man’s pockets and took his knife. “This is mine now!” “Now you’ve got an iron knife, does that make you a man?” I asked, and he looked shocked, as if it hadn’t occurred to him yet.
“Well, I suppose we can take the horses,” Rava said. There were five, enough for all of us and Jeran to ride, each with a child in front. Rava led all the horses along the path, it was too dark to do more than that anyway, and it wasn’t long before we got to Great Tal-Borin where everybody seemed to be up and excited. We found the priestess of Naigha there, I asked her for some willow-bark because we’d got little kids with a fever with us. “Do you want to stay in the temple?” she asked, but Rava said that her mother wanted us all to go to the smithy. Several people asked us what was happening, and we told them what we knew. Before we were done talking to the priestess, we saw a lot of people with pitchforks and torches heading north.
Everybody was up in the smithy too, and I found Athal and said “here are some children who are hungry and thirsty and dirty, can you get them something to eat and drink, and a clean shirt?” and then we settled the sick girls near the fire and made them a willow-bark draught. Mazao was on a pallet near the fire too, and Tao went to sit with him and they sat there for a long time, hugging.
Athal did his work perfectly: he came back with the three older children in tow, who were all wearing something clean and chewing on bread and cheese and apples. “Where do they come from?” he asked, but I didn’t know so I asked the nearest little girl. “From my house, near the windmill!” she said. “I was playing with my sister and then the men came and took me away. Will Mummy and Daddy be very angry?” “They’ll probably be very worried,” I said, “and very happy when you come back.”
After a while Rava the smith came in. “Beer! First beer and then I’ll talk.” Someone got her a large tankard which she drained, then another. Then she gave a knife to Mazao, “I suppose this is yours. After all, you were the one who beat him.” Lyam’s knife! “Is he dead, then?” I asked. Rava counted on her fingers. “Lyam is dead, a bit unfortunate, we didn’t know he was still in the hall. Meruvin is dead, and those two thugs. Lyase is alive, and old Fian, and that Azireh. We’ve locked them up in the village. I’m afraid there’s been rather a lot of fighting.” Then it was suddenly very busy, because wounded people were coming in, some with dog-bites –the people from the castle had set the dogs loose first, of course– and some with burns, and I found myself washing Hylse’s arm and rubbing it with goose fat. “Did they really set the castle on fire?” I asked her. “Yes! And where shall I work now?” I didn’t know an answer to that, and anyway there were lots more people to treat, we were working until morning as if we were back in the hospital in Albetire.