Fish, Iron and Love
From Tal Rayen to Tylenay is about a day and a half. You have to go the little river port place again, and then further east-north-east. Or maybe that’s not exactly correct. I’m not a cartographer. The road was pretty amazing, though, well graded, with a good, deep gravel bed (though the gravel tended to get into the horses and mules’ hoofs). It turned out that Captain Aidan and his Turenay regiment had built this road some years ago, partly as an exercise, partly because it was needed, partly to map this part of Valdyas.
I got the bit about the exercise, though: if an army needs to go where no army has gone before, being able to make good roads quickly is important. And that also explains a bit why the Valdyan army led the way in the campaign against the Khas in northern Iss-Peran. If this is how we train the few soldiers we have, we at least have a capable core army. Maybe I should spend some more time learning stuff from Captain Aidan.
Turns out even armies are interesting.
On our way to Tylenay first passed Lower Penedin, a farming village. There’s a rather broad valley down from Tylenay with really prosperous farms. Even right now, the fields were looking good, with green shoots coming up already. Given that there were farmsteads standing all by their lonesomes in the middle of fields, without even having walls, bandits and unrest must be rare here — it seems the old, rather evil, furnace owners cared about peace, food and quiet and enforced it for ages.
Tylenay is a pretty dirty place, though! Even if all the slag is thrown to the other side of the mountain, all charcoal smoke makes this a gray and grimy place.
When we arrived, we all stayed in one of the inns, so as to give the Little Doctors — that’s what they’re called, don’t blame me, from the stories they are great doctors — time to prepare to host Doctor Cora, Captain Aidan and their immediate dependents. The soldiers were to stay camped outside the town wall, which runs from the mountain to the lake, not around the whole town.
We didn’t know, so I took charge.
I said, let’s rent a house for a month — even though we’re just going to be here for two, three weeks — and hire a housekeeper. Erne and Arin can take care of the beasts if the place we’re renting has a stable, so let’s make sure of that. The school people agreed with that, so I went into the Temple of Mizran to find a friendly priest.
I found Meran. He instantly understood the sort of thing we were after — big enough to house us all, there needed to be at least four bedrooms — one for me and Leva, one for Senthi, one for the boys, one for the girls, and a stable with an attic for Erne and Arin. Yes… And a kitchen where a kettle of stew could be kept going, because, Mizran knows, these people don’t do regular meals when they get interested in stuff.
And he knew where to go. Past all the markets, to the north-most part of town, where there were huge wainwright’s workshops where they are making carts so big I’ve never seen them anywhere, big enough that all the school people were off like hares to inspect things like springs and wheel construction.
I got a tour of the apartment, and there were six rooms plus a big kitchen, and the offer of master wainwright Jeran’s mother-in-law to “do” for us. That sounded perfect, so I started negotations for rent, board and fee — only to be flabbergasted when I realized that when I said “five” they understood “shillings” and were fine with that, while I had meant to be parsimonious and only offered five riders…
Oh, well, we got over that, and managed to get our animals squared away, our students were happy enough, and with a little bit of silvery grease, we got our apartment fitted out. And Mrs Mom-in-Law, Aine, she understood about the dietary requirements of our bunch of students. Which is: warm food at any time of the day, and tea.
Then, while Leva was wriggling through a cartwheel, I figured out that colleague Meran had a boyfriend, so I invited both of them to a dinner in the best inn in town — which I had already heard about from doctor Cora, it serves lake-food.
Dinner was great — and I got a bunch more recipes for Mrs. Alyse! I’m kind of enjoying this collecting of ways to make good food! And we got an invite to join them for a visit to High Penedin, where there’s this person who would be a great fit for Leva’s school, since he’s really deep into making water work for you. Plus, it’ll be the day of Anshen, and I’m sort of nervous about that. The village is where everyone who belongs to Anshen has kept the summer feast for years, because the town belonged to Archan — that’s to say, the Nameless.
And after dinner, we went dancing in the Brewery. I made a lot of acquaintances, learned a lot about Tylenay, too. And dancing was fun, and, with Leva, wonderful!
We had a long talk about getting physically close, too, Leva, me, Meran, his boyfriend, a random girl and her girlfriend we had picked up dancing. It’s quite a problem, for me. I want to fiddle with all of Leva’s fiddly bits, and I want her to mess me up — but I can’t. I cannot go further than a cuddle, or sleeping folded into each other — I can’t even kiss without getting all sick with images of my dad. Or granddad. Take whichever you want. With mom.
Aylin, the girl we met, she nodded, and said, okay, you’re just fucked up — take your time. There’s no hurry, right? And she was right. If Leva doesn’t get sick of me, we’re going to have so many years together.
And in the meantime, when I see her run off to learn stuff, invent things, fill that mind of hers with everything she loves to talk about, I don’t care much about anything else.
Still, I went to the hospital the morning of the day that Leva went out with her crew to study the ironworks. I had wanted to come with her, but it’s important that lovers don’t crowd each other in, and besides, I really wanted to meet the “little doctors” and see Doctor Cora at work, and learn about how this hospital was working within the town — how it managed to pay for things, how various patients are treated — and what they are feeding their patients.
I guess my final, crowning glory was when Doctor Amre asked me, after I had helped her giving her anea when she was working on a wound, to suture the wound. Sorry! I’m no doctor, but I’m pleased you found me so useful you were taking me for one!
Their housekeeper had some utterly delectable recipes, too, and after that — bliss! Leva and her mates came down from the ironworks, and they were filthy, so all of us, we went to take a good bath, and when we came back, Ma Aine had some really good stew going, and fresh bread, too.