High Penedin

A bit of a holiday. Amre had to make an effort not to work.

The next day was the Day of Anshen and we were off to the village — not only had we promised the children that we’d go, but we wanted to be there ourselves and see what the Ishey had done to the house. Never mind that it would be another day, perhaps two days, without practice: the town had done without us for all these years and it could do without us for another couple of days.

“Then I’ll go to the farm to get in some more winter supplies,” Aine said, “with all those extra people we won’t have enough otherwise!” And Halla wanted to go with her to talk about barley.

“Do you want me to come?” Rava asked.

“Do you want to come?”

“I’d rather stay here,” she said. Not to protect the house, it turned out, but to catch up on sleep! And Serla was staying to look after the hospital, with Jeran, Hylse and Erian standing by.

Our own Jeran –perhaps Serla’s own Jeran by now– had to drive the donkey-cart, because nobody else was a good enough driver to handle the steep roads. I can drive well enough on flat roads, and so can Amre, but that was a really tricky bit. Anyway, Serla told him to go, “you know you want to talk to Jilan and Nisha’s brothers!”

We took all four of the nurses: they deserved a day off, too!

With all those people there wasn’t enough room for everyone in the cart, but most of us wanted to walk anyway. After all, a donkey is on foot too, it was easy to keep up. “What am I driving for?” Jeran asked, exasperated.

“For the way back when we’re tired,” we said, “and to bring some of Jilan’s delicious smoked fish!”

After a while we noticed that the dog was following us. “Shall I take her home?” Jilan asked, concerned about the puppies. But Amre talked sternly to Hinla: “did you bring the puppies in a basket?” Hinla shook her head, and no, they weren’t in a basket, but in a wooden fruit box!

Fortunately we were almost at the swimming-place where we could unload and let the puppies drink. There were several village children playing in the water already, who of course wanted to see the puppies too. “If someone needs a dog in a couple of months, you know who to ask!” we said.

We ate the breakfast we’d brought, and everybody splashed in the water a bit, even the nurses.

When we got to the village we greeted the priestess of Naigha, then saw that the smith and the headman were already waiting for us. They smiled, “young Jilan told us you were coming! We need to talk.”

The smith needed to talk about the mine, but we could only tell him that we’d asked the priestess of Mizran to find out what could be done, and that we, at least, would do everything we could to prevent the town council from taking over.

The headman needed to talk about the rules for the village. “That book your little girl brought — didn’t she come with you this time?– from Tal-Serth, that’s much like we have here but there’s a lot more in it. It’s like what they’ve got in Silver Village, all the rules about being a village on your own and not depending on the town! We’re thinking of writing up the rest of it for ourselves as well.”

“Yes, you should definitely do that!” we said, and promised to send them Jinla to do it properly.

Then our own people came and showed us the bath-house they’d built. It was right over the stream, with a little sluice to direct the water through or around it as needed. “It’s cold now but we can heat it!” Jilan said. “When the old people come, or the priestess, she’s not old yet but she does like her comfort.”

I saw stairs leading to what looked like a cellar, and asked “There’s a fire down there?”

“Not only that,” he said, “come look!”

The cellar was lined with an interesting sort of bricks, full of holes. “That traps the heat so we don’t need so big a fire,” Jilan explained.

“Did you fire the bricks with sticks inside?” I asked. I couldn’t think of any other way.

“Yes, cherry-wood, someone cut down a dead cherry tree and all the little twigs were perfect for this. They burn up, but not until the clay is set.”

Tarn was very interested in how it was done, and Jilan took him aside and showed him more technical details. That boy is cut out to be Ishey! “You could run a little water-mill in that stream,” he said.

“The water-mill is upstream where the current is stronger,” Jilan said. “I’ll show you later. It’s not half finished yet but we have a mill-wheel already.”

Where the stream made a little waterfall just outside the village, someone had built seats near the pool where it was cool and shadowed. People made us sit down there and brought us all kinds of nice things to eat and drink, like guests of honour! We ended up with just our own family, that is, all the people who lived in the house, not only Nisha’s brothers and Jilan but also the couple with the baby and the other couple we’d sent to live and work in the village while they recuperated. The only person missing was Coran who was away to Veray.

“I’m not working,” Amre said. “I’m relaxing!” But I could see she had to make an effort not to get up and see if there was something to do. Well, if there was anything in the village for us doctors to do, someone would have called us earlier!

“I’ll show you a place to sleep,” Jilan said, “or you’ll fall asleep here and you’ll get all wet from the spray!” And he showed us a pallet by the kitchen hearth. On the other side there was another pallet, full of our sleeping children.

We didn’t sleep for a while, of course.

In the morning Jilan showed us — mostly Tarn, but the rest of us wanted to see it too — the water-mill upstream. It already had a wheel driving an axle, and basins where paddles attached to the axle could do things like pound old cloth for paper, but the paddles weren’t there yet. Tarn was asking such clever questions that Jilan said “Can’t you come and live here? We can use someone like you!”

That was actually a good idea! We wouldn’t be able to send him to Valdis before the winter anyway. “You can stay the winter, anyway!” we said, and everybody liked that. There were enough clothes in the house that would fit him, it didn’t matter that he’d have to wait a week for his own things.

We passed Monster, who was in a meadow with the mules and a donkey. She came to the fence to greet us. “Are we going to take her back home with us?” Hinla asked.

“No,” I said, “she’s an outside dog now, a farm dog. She’s never been a town dog really, all the dogs at home in Turenay are outside dogs too! And now she’s bitten people she’s going to learn all over again who are good people and who aren’t.”

At least Monster was convinced that we were good people, and Hinla buried her face in the dog’s long hair.

When we got back to town in the middle of the afternoon, the first thing we heard was that Master Orin had died. That wasn’t a surprise — but now we would really have to hold a guild meeting soon, because the midwives’ and apothecaries’ guild now had all of the town’s doctors in it, and we’d better make that official. And send a representative to the guild heads’ meeting at first snow. Neither Amre nor I thought we were old enough, or had lived in town long enough, to do that, and midwives were always busy, so we might try to convince one of the apothecaries to go.

We hadn’t been there to have the normal morning practice, so we had a semsin lesson instead. While Amre was having everybody find and make a safe place for themselves (Hylse’s was really interesting: a workshop with tools, and every tool had the name of a person) , I sat in a corner with Rava and took her through the very first steps, really slowly. “Can you see your own spirit?”

A lot of thinking. “Sure.”

“Can you see if your spirit is the same size as your body, or larger, or smaller?”

“Depends whether I’m angry or scared or not.”

That made a lot of sense. “Can you make your spirit large on purpose, without being angry? As large as you can?”

Oops. As large as Rava could was very large indeed, and she swept away everybody in the room. Amre and Serla hastily slapped a seal on it. “That’s really good! Can you be your ordinary size again now?”

While we were in the mood for lessons, we started the dancing lessons we’d been promising for ages. “This is only for women, sorry,” we had to tell the men, boys and little girls. “Only women who have their monthly bleeding.” That included Serla, though she was far from regular yet, and it was Serla who we were actually doing it for because she had some muscles that needed strengthening. We’d shown her where those muscles were, and with the first dance exercises her face lit up when she noticed what she was doing.

After that, we went back to being doctors. Before we came home, Serla had taken a man into the hospital with an inflamed appendix and we needed to take it out. Not very urgent, though as soon as possible was a good thing, and it was excellent practice for Serla. Also, it was the first time we used the new knives that we’d got from the best knife-smith in Tylenay. And they weren’t quite sharp enough: not as sharp as the masterpiece from the smith in Veray, or anything Mernath in Turenay had made for the hospital.

“Let’s invite the head of the smiths’ guild to dinner,” I said. “I want to get to know all the heads of the craft guilds anyway, before we’re going to have any official meetings with them. And then we can ask him how to come by sharper knives.”

The head of the weavers’ guild we already knew from Hylse and Jeran’s wedding; I thought that the landlady of the Crown of Valdyas might be the head of the innkeepers.

We asked Erian if he knew who the head of the smiths’ guild was — if he didn’t, his mother surely would — and he said “That’s Master Meran at the West Gate!” so we sent him with the invitation. “Ask him to bring his wife,” Amre called after him, but Erian came back and said that Meran was a widower.

We had just enough time to warn Aine that we were going to have a guest. Master Meran appeared in good time, carrying a heavy parcel that he gave to Aine, “for the house” — and it turned out to be a small barrel of butter! That is a good guest gift! He turned out to be a very pleasant man, with humor though completely without imagination. When Cynla leaned her freckled head becomingly on her hands and said “don’t you remember me, Master Meran?” he called her by four different names and then pretended not to recognise her at all, but it was clear that he did.

It wasn’t until we were sitting at the kitchen table after dinner with a cup of wine that we addressed the subject of the knives.

“Yes, that’s Arni’s work,” Meran said, “here’s her mark, see, she’s the best in knives.”

“They’re better than anything else in this town, yes,” we said, “but the knives we lost in the flood were better still — someone’s masterpiece, admittedly. What we really need are knives so sharp that if you cut yourself, you don’t notice.”

He was silent for a while. “I’d say talk to Arni and make it clear what you need,” he said eventually. “Perhaps she’ll take knifesmithing to a level this town has never seen before.”